by Acharya S aka D.M. Murdock
It is a curious fact that writers who toss around the words “sloppy,” “garbled” and “nonsense” are often guilty of these very things themselves. Case in point is the critical review of the first part of the internet movie “ZEITGEIST” by Skeptic magazine book editor Tim Callahan (Eskeptic, 2/25/09). Callahan proclaims “ZEITGEIST Part 1”–for which I was a source and last-minute consultant on the official version–to be “sloppy” and “garbled,” and he proceeds to give his opinion as to its supposed errors. First of all, his declaration that much of the material in ZG is “plainly and simply bogus” is false. Callahan has evidently not even studied the sources meticulously cited on the ZG website to see from where this material comes. Instead, he gives the impression that the movie’s creator, Peter Joseph, simply “made it up.” Secondly, ZG is a simple summary of the thesis that Jesus is a rehash of the popular sun gods of the Roman Empire and beyond. The 25-minute segment was not meant to serve as a thorough scholarly analysis, so Callahan’s talk about “greater scholarship” and “spurious scholarship” constitutes a mere snooty red herring.
As concerns his much-ado about the Jewish milieu of the gospel tale, stating that Joseph “ignores…the powerful current of messianic apocalypticism prevalent in first century Judea,” if Callahan had studied ZG’s sources, he would have discovered that some of them, such as I, very much incorporate the fervent “messianic apocalypticism” of the era into our analyses. Indeed, it is my thesis that this fervor drove messianic Jews to fabricate a fictional messiah in order to compete with the reigning gods of other cultures, many of whom were solar in nature. Hence, Jews, Hebrews, Samaritans and other Israelites took sun gods, rolled them into one, and then historicized and Judaized them in the gospel story. When one closely analyzes the situation, peeling away the mythological layers of the gospel story, there remains no core to the onion and no “actual historical Jesus” to whom to point. In reality, the myriad “historical Jesuses” of scholarship–Callahan’s included–usually represent products of the writer’s most cherished qualities, not of serious scientific fact. As professor of Judaic and Religion Studies at Brown University Dr. Shaye Cohen remarks, “Modern scholars have routinely reinvented Jesus or have routinely rediscovered in Jesus that which they want to find…” (“From Jesus to Christ”)
The Cross and Crucifix
As concerns the cross as a pre-Christian solar symbol, the point is not what shape the “real” Jesus was allegedly placed on, as detailed by Callahan, but that the classic imagery of a god on a crucifix or in cruciform with arms outstretched existed in pre-Christian times, as did the cross itself as a sacred symbol, long before Christ was supposedly crucified on it, thereby purportedly giving it significance. As stated in my book The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold (218):
The cross and crucifix are very ancient symbols found around the world long prior to the supposed advent of the Christian savior. In the gospel story Jesus tells his disciples to “take up the cross” [Mt 16:24] and follow him. Obviously, the cross already existed and was a well-known symbol, such that Jesus did not even have to explain this strange statement about an object that, we are led to believe, only gained significance after Jesus died on it.
The fact of the pre-Christian god affixed to a cross is admitted by Church fathers Tertullian and Minucius Felix, as I relate in my book Who Was Jesus? Fingerprints of The Christ (243):
…centuries before Christ himself was ever represented in art as crucified, Church father Tertullian (c. 160 to 230?)…discussed an image of a crucified Roman god:
The body of your god is first consecrated on the gibbet. [Apology, 12]
Again in his Apology (16), Tertullian raises the subject of Roman gods in the shape of a cross or in cruciform:
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 the 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.
Hence, Tertullian attested that the Romans bore images of not only a man but also gods on crosses, that they additionally possessed gods themselves in cruciform and that these images were objects of worship.
Furthermore, as also related in Who Was Jesus?:
…early Church father Minucius Felix (c. 250 AD/CE) made similar comparisons–unfavorably, of course–between Christianity and pre-Christian religion, specifically as concerns the cross and the image of a man on a cross, or crucifix. Addressing the Romans in his apology Octavius , Felix remarked:
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.
Even earlier than both these sincere Christian writers came the admissions by Justin Martyr (c. 150 AD/CE):
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. [First Apology, 21. Emphasis added.]
An interested scholar might inquire which of these “sons of Jupiter” was crucified? And would it not be a very strange coincidence that the Jewish godman just happened to be likewise hung on a cross? Callahan appears completely oblivious to all these facts in his desire to find a “historical Jesus” crucified somewhere, with no hard evidence of such an event.
Despite the pedantic exercise concerning the shape of the cross or stauros that Jesus might have been placed upon, the important fact will remain that the cross of varying shapes was a sacred object long before it gained significance with Christianity. Indeed, anyone trying to create a new religion would be negligent in ignoring the cross–and not only the cross but also an image of a man/god upon it. Hence the point is that Christianity borrowed the iconography of older religions. It would be a simple matter of merging Judaism with Paganism and making up a story of a Jewish messiah affixed to a cross. As an important related aside, the word Stauros is another name for the Egyptian-Gnostic divinity Horos, a subject discussed in depth in my book Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection.
The Egyptian Connection
After addressing the resurrections of the gods Osiris and Dionysus–and agreeing that these represent pre-Christian dying-and-rising gods–Callahan asserts, “However, beyond the resurrection of Osiris, the main parallels between the Egyptian myth and the New Testament are iconic.” He next gives examples of such iconography, including the well-known Mother and Child imagery later adopted by Christianity. The idea that the main parallels between Christianity and the Egyptian religion are only iconic is false, however, as practically every concept found within Christianity also appeared within the Egyptian faith centuries to millennia earlier. As respected Egyptologist Dr. Erik Hornung says concerning the Egyptian mortuary literature or “Books of the Netherworld”:
Private tombs and sarcophagi of the Late Period were also decorated with copies of these works, and it is not improbable that even early Christian texts were influenced by ideas and images from the New Kingdom religious books. (Hornung, The Valley of the Kings, 9)
What a passionate scholar might be inclined to do with such a tantalizing comment as, “it is not improbable that even early Christian texts were influenced by ideas and images from the New Kingdom religious books,” would be to delve into research to discover these influences from Egyptian books on early Christian texts. That’s precisely what I have done, producing a massive, well-documented tome in Christ in Egypt.
And Egyptologist Hornung is far from being alone in his assessment as to the influence of the Egyptian religion on Christianity: Christ in Egypt is packed full of such suggestions from many different scholars. Indeed, in CIE, I use primary sources and the works of highly credentialed scholars in relevant fields to show that the Horus-Jesus comparisons and other Egyptian elements appearing in ZEITGEIST are in fact true. Not actually studying the subject in depth–but simply reading sanitized mainstream resources and shallow encyclopedia entries–will neither reveal these facts nor make an expert of anyone.
In raising the contention in ZG of Horus being “crucified,” Callahan reveals he is not an expert in Egyptian religion and does not know that Osiris and Horus are often “conflated” or interchanged in the massive Egyptian literature. Yet, ZG is in reality not “conflating” Horus with Osiris, because Horus too was murdered by Set. Indeed, in describing Horus’s death and resurrection, pre-Christian writer Diodorus Siculus uses the precise term later utilized by the gospel writers to depict Christ’s resurrection, as also demonstrated in Christ in Egypt. Apparently Callahan is unaware of this important pre-Christian portrayal of the death and resurrection of Horus, as he goes into a digression concerning the death of Osiris and the impregnation of Isis.
Callahan is also evidently unaware of the fact that there are different versions of the various myths, such as concerns the impregnation of Isis, who in ancient texts is called the “Great Virgin.” As Dr. James Curl says in The Egyptian Revival, “[Isis] was the sacred embodiment of motherhood, yet was known as the Great Virgin, an apparent contradiction that will be familiar to Christians.” (Curl, The Egyptian Revival, 13) In this same regard, the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament relates:
In a text in the Abydos Temple of Seti I, Isis herself declares: “I am the great virgin.” (Botterweck, 338)
As we can see, there is much more to the story than is implied by both Christian apologists and skeptics alike. The discussion of Horus’s mother as “The Virgin Isis-Mery” can be found in full in Christ in Egypt, in a chapter 77 pages long.
Horus and the 12
When Callahan makes such comments as, “I have absolutely no idea where Joseph got the notion that Horus had 12 disciples or that he was ever crucified,” he is revealing again that he did not even look at the sources for ZEITGEIST before presenting himself an expert on the subject. This sentence betrays Callahan’s shallow knowledge of the subject–he has no idea where this information came from, because he has not studied the subject in depth; therefore, ZG must be wrong! If Callahan had checked with me first, I could have steered him in the right direction as to where to find these various aspects of the Egyptian mythos. For example, he could have read the work of Dr. Hornung, in which he produces this wonderful image from the Book of Amduat of Horus heading the 12:
Horus enthroned before the Twelve,
Seventh Hour of the Amduat.
(Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife, 48)
From the Egyptian texts, images and artifacts themselves–that is where we get these notions!
In my various books, I include an extensive discussion of the mythical motif of the “Twelve Followers,” devoting an entire chapter to it in Christ in Egypt. That the 12 became an astrological theme in religions of the Roman Empire is a proven fact not only with the cults of Mithra and the Egyptian hybrid god Serapis but also with the 12 Tribes of Israel. As I relate in Christ in Egypt (261):
As is the case with other major characteristics of the Egyptian gods that have been associated with Jesus, the claim that Horus had 12 “disciples” cannot be found easily in modern encyclopedias or mainstream books. In reality, the association of the sun god with “the Twelve” constitutes a common motif, based on both the months of the year and the 12-hour divisions of day and night. Indeed, we find the theme of “the Twelve” in a number of other cultures, including the 12 Olympian gods of Greece, as well as those of the Romans, along with the 12 adventures of Gilgamesh, the 12 labors of Hercules and the 12 Tribes of Israel, all of which symbolize the months of the year and/or the zodiacal signs.
In a footnote to this paragraph, I write:
See Exodus 39:9-14: “…they made the breastplate… And they set in it four rows of stones… And the stones were according to the names of the children of Israel, twelve…according to the twelve tribes.” As Josephus says (Antiquities, 3.8): “And for the twelve stones, whether we understand by them the months or whether we understand the like number of the signs of that circle which the Greeks call the zodiac, we shall not be mistaken in their meaning.” (Josephus, 75.) Earlier than Josephus, Philo (“On the Life of Moses,” 12) had made the same comments regarding Moses: “Then the twelve stones on the breast, which are not like one another in colour, and which are divided into four rows of three stones in each, what else can they be emblems of, except of the circle of the zodiac?” (Philo, 99.)
As we can see, by the first century it was well known that the theme of “the 12” was astrological in nature.
In Christ in Egypt I provide the evidence for the rest of the Egyptian claims in ZG, including an entire 32-page chapter entitled “Was Horus ‘Crucified?'” There was in reality no need for the mystification that unfortunately indicates ignorance of the subject matter. In CIE, I show that not only is Horus associated with the sacred cross in a number of ways but that, in an important pre-Christian icon, he was also placed on the cross of the vernal equinox, between two “thieves.”
Born on December 25th
Callahan has mistakenly reviewed the wrong version of ZEITGEIST, which was let out of the bag before I consulted on it. In the final cut, Krishna is not listed as born on December 25th. Nevertheless, as an incarnation of the sun god Vishnu, who was logically depicted as “rising” at the winter solstice, a case could be made for such a contention, as discussed in my book Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled, which is listed as one of the sources for Part 1 of ZG. In any event, we are interested in the official version of ZG, so bringing up the Krishna info in order to refute it constitutes a straw man.
Not only was Mithra born on December 25th or the winter solstice–as is proper for sun gods–but so too was Horus, and this point is also thoroughly proved in Christ in Egypt. Contrary to popular misconception, December 25th is not an erroneous date for the winter solstice but represents the end of a triduum or three-day period beginning at midnight on December 21st and ending at midnight on December 24th. The adoption of this date into Christianity reveals that the creators and promulgators of that faith were indeed interested in usurping the powerful solar mythology and astrotheological religion that permeated the Roman Empire.
The Nativity Scene at Luxor
In addressing the nativity scene at Luxor and its relationship to the gospel story, Callahan refers to “Joseph’s confusion.” After making this disparaging comment, Callahan himself goes on to state, “This is probably the source of Luke’s Nativity.” But he wants to split hairs that in fact reveal once more a shallow knowledge of the subject matter. In the first place, many people over the centuries since the temple’s discovery have raised the comparison between the Luxor birth narrative and the gospel nativity, including associating its characters with Isis and Horus, so this contention has nothing to do with “Joseph’s confusion.”
Secondly, Callahan sloppily and confusedly garbles two different nativity scenes, not realizing that it is the birth narrative of the pharaoh Amenhotep III which appears at Luxor, not that of the female Hatshepsut, which is in fact at Deir el Bahari. Once again Callahan could have come to me to read my extensive online excerpt from CIE on the Nativity Scene at Luxor. This section in my book constitutes some 24 pages of discussion. In any event, to say as Callahan does that the birth scene of the divine pharaoh–who is the living Horus–has nothing to do with Horus, Isis and Osiris reflects an ignorance of Egyptian culture. To quote from Christ in Egypt:
During a long period of Egyptian history–in fact, “throughout the existence of Pharaonic Egypt”–the king or pharaoh, the son of the sun, was…identified with Horus and was given a “Horus name.”… Dr. Frankfort remarks:
Each king, at death, becomes Osiris…, just as each king, in life, appears “on the throne of Horus”; each king is Horus.
Indeed, as related by Dr. Murnane, Horus is “the primary identity of the pharaoh.” (CIE, 50)
Identifying the mother as “Isis” is also not erroneous but would be logical, since she is Horus’s mother. Concerning the role of the king as Horus and his mother as Isis, Hornung describes a scene in the burial chamber of Tuthmosis III of “a stylized tree offering its breast to the pharaoh,” underneath which is the inscription: “He sucks [on the breast of] his mother Isis.” The “Royal Mother Isis,” Hornung continues, is the pharaoh’s “real mother.” The Swiss Egyptologist further remarks upon the fact that Tuthmosis thus “had an Isis as his earthly mother,” while “[a]t the same time, the king as Horus on earth is able to return to his heavenly mother Isis…” Hornung also relates that the king, like Horus, is “the loyal son born to Isis….”
Moreover, in various of the hymns to Isis in her temple at Philae, built beginning centuries before the common era, appear references by the king to his “mother” Isis, identifying the Ptolemy who is the hymn’s subject as the “beloved son” of the goddess. As Žabkar relates:
Thus Isis, mother of Horus, is also mother of the king, not only because she addresses him as “my beloved son,” or “my son, Horus, my beloved,” but because his royal function and character are coextensive with those of Horus, her son, who long ago had become the mythical prototype of the Egyptian king, with whom the Ptolemies tended to identify themselves.
In discussing the “Egyptian royal rites,” Griffiths also relates that the king’s mother is Isis:
…In the coronation rites, attention is naturally focused on the new king, who is equated with Horus, but since Isis is the mother of Horus (in his forms as Horus the Child and Horus the Elder), she figures in the retrospective aspect of such rites, as indeed does Osiris as his father.
Therefore, the divine child is essentially Horus, while his mother is identified with Isis, a perpetual virgin…. (CIE, 178)
At another point, Callahan returns to his contention that Luke’s Nativity is based on the Egyptian birth narrative at Luxor, which he once again erroneously claims to be that of Hatshepsut and to have nothing to do with Isis. Yet, he next nonsensically says, “So Mary could relate to the constellation Virgo, but also took on the iconography of Isis,” leaving us confused as to what he is intending in this garbled writing. First he ridicules Peter Joseph for thinking that the queen and divine child in the sacred Egyptian birth scene could represent Isis and Horus; then, he gives the impression of associating Hatshepsut and/or Mary with Isis.
The Star and Three Kings, etc.
As concerns the various astronomical, astrological and astrotheological aspects contended in ZG, Callahan lumps them together under the heading of “nonsense.” What is in fact “nonsense” here is the lack of knowledge of the subject matter on the part of the writer. He seems to have no concept of the true nature of religious worship in the ancient world–astrotheological worship being proved on practically a daily basis by advanced archaeoastronomical finds at ancient temples in numerous places worldwide.
In specific, again, Callahan evidently has no idea that this comparison between the Star of Bethlehem/Wise Men pericope and Sirius/Orion’s “Three Kings” did not originate with the creator of ZG but can be found in numerous writings dating back at least to the 18th century with the voluminous works of Charles Francois Dupuis, a muse for Count Volney, who did extensive research on the astrotheological nature of ancient religions. Nor does Callahan have any concept of the intense reverence with which Sirius and the three “kings” or “wise men” in Orion’s Belt were held by the Egyptians for many centuries before the common era. Indeed, these stellar objects heralded the annual birth of the Egyptian messiah. To quote another respected Egyptologist, Dr. John Gwyn Griffiths:
“Sothis [Sirius] was the harbinger of the annual inundation of the Nile through her appearance with the rising sun at the time when the inundation was due to begin. The bright star would therefore naturally become, together with the conjoined constellation of Orion, the sign and symbol of new vegetation which the Year then beginning would infallibly bring with it.” (Griffiths, The Origins of Osiris and His Cult, 157)
As I relate in Christ in Egypt (200):
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….
….Hence, the “Star in the East” heralded the birth of the Egyptian Messiah thousands of years before the Christian era.
As we can see from this and much more research I provide in Christ in Egypt, there is nothing nonsensical about suggesting that the very similar–virtually identical–motif as found in the much later Christianity is a rehash of this popular aspect of Egyptian religion. What is nonsensical is to believe, as Callahan apparently does, that the Star of Bethlehem was an actual event, rather than a common mythical motif.
In this discussion, Callahan also raises another straw man: To wit, the number of the “wise men” or “kings,” at the same time splitting hairs and nitpicking by stating that “kings” and “wise men” are not the same thing. It is not, as Callahan complains, the “nonsense” of films like ZG that give Christian apologists ammunition but the ridiculous and meaningless nitpicking engaged in by skeptics that hands them ammo.
This latter point about the wise men/kings would be important only to a pedant but not to the public, who could and did easily alternate these dignitaries, which is why we do in fact find them interchangeably within Christian tradition itself. The number of these dignitaries is also not important, although in the Bible their gifts are three and Christian tradition holds them as three, in evident emulation of the popular motif from Egypt. It would be a simple matter for the Jewish imitators of the Egyptian myth to leave out the number of the “wise men” or “kings.”
As concerns Callahan’s discussion of the Old Testament texts that may have been used as a blueprint for this NT pericope, firstly we have no evidence that these OT texts reflect “real history.” Moreover, the fact that the Jewish creators of Christianity used the Old Testament as a blueprint–which I show extensively in Who Was Jesus?–does not preclude them from also incorporating in their myths the astrotheological motifs of their neighbors, including naming their towns such as Bethlehem after mythical places representing sacred sites.
The Celebration of Easter
At one point, Callahan claims that “Easter [as] related to the sun’s triumph over darkness at or shortly following the Vernal Equinox” constitutes an “astrological fantasy.” Astonishingly, it appears that Callahan has no idea of the real meaning of the word “Easter” and its significance in the pre-Christian world! Indeed, he gives the impression that “Easter” really is the term for when Christ was crucified. It isn’t a question of “simply relegating Easter to a celebration of the Vernal Equinox.” Easter is the celebration of the vernal equinox or Spring, dating back thousands of years. Christ’s crucifixion was placed at that time in order to usurp this very popular celebration of the yearly renewal or resurrection of life. Even the ancient Church fathers themselves were aware of this purposeful juxtaposition. (See, e.g., the Chronicon Paschale.)
Callahan repeatedly uses the term “Christ myth,” as in: “However, the solar associations of the cross, while adding solar connotations to the Christ myth, do not militate against it also being a symbol of the Crucifixion.” Such statements, of course, will not please believers who wish to use his writing to “debunk” ZG. Also, while ridiculing and dismissing the solar association of Christianity identified in ZG, Callahan confusedly suggests that there are “solar connotations to the Christ myth!” Yet, somewhere under all these myths, Callahan insists he can find a “real, actual and historical Jesus” who was definitely crucified, regardless of the lack of evidence for such a person. To paraphrase a wise man, “A composite of 20 people is no one.”
At one point, Callahan engages in blatant circular reasoning by saying, “It is the historiscity [sic] of Jesus that will tell us whether the Crucifixion was real or merely symbolic of the sun descending…” Even if we could find some “historical Jesus” in this amalgam of myths, his mere existence does not prove that he was crucified! Nor does it negate the adoption into Christianity of an obvious and popular solar symbol, i.e., the cross. Nor does it nullify the admissions of such early Church fathers as Justin Martyr and Tertullian about non-Christian or pre-Christian gods on crosses. In the end, Christ is just another of the long line of gods, godmen and goddess on crosses or in cruciform. In the face of the absolute dearth of evidence for his existence, there is no reason to suppose that Christ’s crucifixion is any less mythical than the passions of other gods such as Osiris and Dionysus.
The Non-Biblical Testimony
Callahan, like many uncritical Christian apologists, bases his “historical” Jesus on a handful of sentences from the end of the first century to the beginning of the second century–secondhand testimony at best that, when scrutinized, does not hold up to the light. It should be noted firstly that the list of historians and other writers of the 1st century that appears in ZG is from my book Who Was Jesus? (85). Not one of these many writers says anything about Christ, Christians or Christianity, although some of them traveled in the very area of the gospel story and knew the Jewish culture well. Not a word from contemporary historians, despite the fact that, according the New Testament in some two dozen scriptures, Jesus was famed far and wide! (See WWJ, 85)
The fact of this material in the writings of Jewish and Roman historians Josephus, Pliny, Suetonius and Tacitus constituting little to no evidence as to the existence of a “historical” Jesus has been understood for decades to centuries, but these counterarguments are apparently completely unknown to Callahan. I have presented these arguments against the value of this supposed “testimony” extensively in my writings, such as in Suns of God and Who Was Jesus? Following are some relevant excerpts from Suns of God:
Callahan wisely avoids the larger passage in Josephus called the “Testimonium Flavianum,” which has been shown repeatedly over the centuries to be a forgery in toto, although there are, of course, those who cling to a partial interpolation theory or who insist it to be genuine in its entirety. Yet, Callahan is ignorant of the arguments against the authenticity of the “James passage,” which I outline in Suns of God and Who Was Jesus?
As concerns in particular Tacitus, whom Callahan singles out as “evidence” of Christ’s existence, in Who Was Jesus? (94-96) I write:
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….
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.
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….
In addition, if there were a “vast multitude” of Christians in Rome by Nero’s time, why would Suetonius write some 40 to 50 years later that Christianity was a “new” superstition? Particularly if these multitudes of Christians had notoriously been blamed for the fire and persecuted thereafter?…
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…who Nero supposedly had blamed for the infamous fire that almost destroyed Rome?…
Also, this passage constitutes the only Pagan reference that specifically associates Pontius Pilate with Christ. In describing Pilate, Tacitus anachronistically uses the term “procurator,” when it has been asserted that Pilate was a prefect and that there were no procurators until after his era….
And so on, through more pages of argumentation against the value of this passage, including that in the third century Roman historian Cassius Dio (163-229 AD/CE) wrote a fairly lengthy account of the conflagration at Rome and made “no mention of Christians in relation to the event, let alone ‘in great numbers.'” One would think that a meticulous writer like Dio would have before him the account of the famous senator Tacitus, if such an account existed. After studying these various sources and the rest proffered by apologists, such as Thallus, Phlegon and Mara Bar-Serapeion, it is not possible honestly to conclude, as Callahan does, that “the evidence for Jesus as a real, historical personage, though meager, is solid.”
Callahan sets up yet another straw man by stating that ZG makes “the assertion that both Moses and Jesus based their words and actions on a belief in astrological ages of roughly 2,000 plus years dominated by a specific sign of the Zodiac.” In actuality, that is not at all what ZG contends, as ZG does not presume, as does Callahan without any evidence, that Moses and Jesus were “real people” who had words and actions to base on anything. What ZG and some of its sources do claim is that the priests who created these characters–in the case of Moses, long after his purported existence–did so in order to fabricate figureheads for these various ages based on the precession of the equinoxes.
This research did not originate with Peter Joseph and ZG but dates back centuries. When one actually studies this research regarding the astrotheological and astrological creations of the priesthood extending into antiquity, there is good reason to suspect that there was indeed a method to their madness. That the ancient priesthoods of the time were aware of the zodiac and the precession is clear, and no priesthood worth its salt would ignore these mystical and magical symbols. Nor does the addition of writings from the genre of apocalypses negate the influence of the precession upon the Christian effort. Not knowing these important facts, Callahan simply waves his hand and makes it all go away.
The ancient priestcraft, in reality, was well honed by the time it engaged in the creation of Christianity. That the ancient religions were largely based in astrology or astrotheology is a fact that any person presenting himself as an “expert” on ancient religion ignores to his own detriment. By the time of the creation of Christianity, in fact, astrological religion was highly refined and constituted the leading spiritual ideology, as exemplified in Mithraism and many others throughout the Roman Empire. Without extensive study of the astrotheology and solar mythology, as found in my books, especially Suns of God and Christ in Egypt, one will not understand or present a proper perspective of the ancient world during the alleged advent of Jesus Christ. Indeed, in studying the subject, it becomes clear that Christ was from the earliest times the “Sun of Righteousness” and “Sol Noster” (“Our Sun”) the former of which the messiah is called in the biblical book of Malachi, directly preceding the New Testament, and the latter of which Christ was labeled by early Church fathers. By the second century, so prevalent was the contention of Christian sun worship that Tertullian was compelled to retort to the Pagan critics, “You say we worship the sun–so do you!” (As paraphrased in the Catholic Encyclopedia, “Tertullian,” XIV, 521.) As I write in Suns of God (447):
…In Ad. Nationes, Tertullian addressed and denied the contention that Christians were just another sect of sun worshippers:
Chapter XIII.-The Charge of Worshipping the Sun Met by a Retort.
Others…suppose that the sun is the god of the Christians, because it is a well-known fact that we pray towards the east, or because we make Sunday a day of festivity. What then? Do you do less than this?….
In The Apology (Ch. XVI), Tertullian provided the following comeback to the charge of sun worshipping:
Others…believe that the sun is our god. We shall be counted Persians perhaps, though we do not worship the orb of day painted on a piece of linen cloth, having himself everywhere in his own disk…
The solar symbolism and imagery within Christianity is pervasive–and has been noticed since antiquity.
As the great philosopher Thomas Paine said:
The christian religion is a parody on the worship of the Sun, in which they put a man whom they call Christ, in the place of the Sun, and pay him the same adoration which was originally paid to the Sun. (Paine, 87)
After having studied the subject in depth, including the characteristics of the numerous sun gods or solar heroes around the Mediterranean beginning thousands of years ago and continuing into the common era, it is difficult to ignore such remarks and to dismiss them as “nonsense.” What is nonsensical is the tortured reasoning used by skeptics and believers alike to deny this rich panoply of religious and spiritual thought dating back millennia.
Acharya S, The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold, AUP, IL, 1999.
—Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled, AUP, IL, 2004.
Botterweck, G. Johannes, ed., Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, I, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, MI, 1974.
Catholic Encyclopedia, XIV, The Encyclopedia Press, NY, 1913.
Chronicon Paschale, ed. J.P. Migne, Patrologia Graeca, vol. 92, Paris, 1860.
“Commentary on Tacitus and Cassius Dio,” groups.yahoo.com/group/Christ_Conspiracy/message/12723
“From Jesus to Christ,” Frontline, PBS, www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/jesus/searching.html
Griffiths, John Gwyn, The Divine Verdict, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1991.
Hornung, Erik, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife, tr. David Lorton, Cornell University Press, NY, 1999.
—The Valley of the Kings, tr. David Warburton, Timken Publishers, NY, 1990.
Josephus, The Works of Flavius Josephus, tr. William Whitson, Kregel Publications, MI, 1981.
Murdock, D.M., Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection, Stellar House Publishing, Seattle, 2009.
—Who Was Jesus? Fingerprints of The Christ, Stellar House Publishing, Seattle, 2007.
Paine, Thomas, Life and Writings of Thomas Paine, Vincent Parke & Co., 1908.
Philo, The Works of Philo, tr. C.D. Yonge, Hendrikson Publishers, 2000.
Zabkar, Louis V., Hymns to Isis in Her Temple at Philae, Brandeis University Press, 1988.