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Part Three of The Giza Discovery

 

The Saviors of the Ancient World

By Peter Goodgame

 

"The central figure of the ancient Egyptian Religion was Osiris, and the chief fundamentals of his cult were the belief in his divinity, death, resurrection, and absolute control of the destinies of the bodies and souls of men. The central point of each Osirian's Religion was his hope of resurrection in a transformed body and of immortality, which could only be realized by him through the death and resurrection of Osiris."
        E. A. Wallace Budge, Osiris & the Egyptian Resurrection, 1973 (1911), Preface

"The philosophers of the ancient world were the spiritual masters of the Inner Mysteries... At the heart of the Mysteries were myths concerning a dying and resurrecting godman, who was known by many different names. In Egypt he was Osiris, in Greece Dionysus, in Asia Minor Attis, In Syria Adonis, in Italy Bacchus, in Persia Mithras. Fundamentally all these godmen are the same mythical being."
        Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, The Jesus Mysteries - Was the Original Jesus a Pagan God?, 1999, p.4

 

Prior to the birth of Christianity the ancient world was full of mythology, rituals, ceremonies, and religious beliefs that conformed on many levels with what later became the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. This fact may be unknown to most practicing Christians today, or at least ignored, but it has been a common understanding in the secular intellectual world since at least 1890. That was the year in which Sir James G. Frazer's book The Golden Bough was first published. In this volume, now universally recognized as a classic, Frazer became the first mainstream scholar to highlight the common themes found throughout the myths and legends of many different cultures, themes that predated Christianity but which were still very similar—the most important of these being the story of a dying and rising god.

The implications of Frazer's analysis were quickly grasped by his contemporaries who were already in the process of dismantling the Judeo-Christian worldview, aided and abetted by the materialistic preconceptions of Darwin, Freud, Marx and Nietzsche. Frazer's role is probably under-appreciated, but his influence greatly contributed to the emergence of today's modern secular philosophical outlook, especially as it exists within academia.

Since the publication of The Golden Bough many scholars have taken Frazer's thesis, built upon it, and proclaimed much more bolder and more explicit conclusions regarding the connection that must surely exist between Jesus of Nazareth and paganism's Dying God. Below is a sampling of some of the books that have been published over the years that have offered answers to this curious question:

The Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ, Gerald Massey, 1900

Christianity Before Christ, John G. Jackson, 1985

The Book Your Church Doesn't Want You To Read, edited by Tim C. Leedom, 1993

The Christ Conspiracy - The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Acharya S, 1999

The Jesus Mysteries, Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, 1999

The Jesus Puzzle
, Earl Doherty, 1999

That Old-Time Religion, Jordan Maxwell, 2000

The Truth Behind the Christ Myth
, Mark Amaru Pinkham, 2002

The Pagan Christ - Recovering the Lost Light
, Tom Harpur, 2005

The Messiah Myth
, Thomas L. Thompson, 2005

The books listed above represent the work of a minority of scholars who are motivated often by their own religious beliefs and with an axe to grind against Christianity. Their books are aimed at a general audience and they do not hesitate to promote sensational or controversial theories that often do not stand up against rigorous critical scrutiny. However, the above list represents only one side, the radical side, of the academic debate that eventually sprang up after Frazer's publication of The Golden Bough.


The Real Debate

The most recent full-scale scholarly analysis of the ancient mythological/religious phenomenon of dying and rising gods is an academic manuscript by Tryggve N. D. Mettinger, Professor of Hebrew Bible at Lund University, Sweden, entitled The Riddle of Resurrection—"Dying and Rising Gods" in the Ancient Near East, published in 2001.

According to Mettinger, Frazer's thesis—that dying and rising gods were a major element of Near Eastern pagan religion—stood relatively unchallenged for a number of years until it suffered a "severe attack" from a French scholar named R. de Vaux in 1933. Then from that point it led a "somewhat precarious life" until it apparently "died the death of a thousand wounds" through a listing in Eliade's Encyclopedia of Religion (1987). That listing, under the heading "Dying and rising gods" written by scholar Jonathan Z. Smith, claimed to summarize the current academic consensus on the issue, and what it had to say was far from favorable for Frazer's thesis.

According to J.Z. Smith, the entire category of "Dying and Rising" gods was a fabrication, and all of the deities placed in this category, upon close inspection, proved to be either gods who disappeared and then returned, but did not die, or deities who died and then never rose. For Smith it was either one or the other, but never both, as Frazer had claimed for a multitude of pagan deities and which happened in the case of Jesus Christ. Smith even stated that in some cases it appeared that Frazer was "strongly influenced by the wish to demonstrate that Christianity was not an innovation, but that all its essential features are to be found in earlier religions." [1]

If J. Z. Smith's 1987 article was the death of Frazer's thesis, then Mark S. Smith's subsequent paper entitled "The Death of 'Dying and Rising Gods' in the Biblical World," published in 1998, was an attempt to bury it once and for all. In this paper M.S. Smith focused on all of the alleged dying and rising deities and was able to find discrepancies with each and every one of them as they related to Frazer's thesis. According to Smith's interpretation of the data, either they were not fully divine, or they did not actually die, or they did not rise after death. The twentieth century ended with Frazer's thesis in a very abused condition.

But what if the reaction against Frazer has swung too far in the opposite direction? That is what Tryggve Mettinger concludes at the end of his analysis of the current status of "Dying and Rising God" scholarship, which is a state of affairs that prompted him to write his book The Riddle of Resurrection in the first place.

In his book Mettinger makes a meticulous examination of the Near Eastern gods that have been placed at one time or another under the heading of "Dying and Rising" gods. These include Ugaritic Baal, Melqart-Heracles, Adonis, Eshmun-Asclepius, Dumuzi-Tammuz, and Osiris. For Mettinger the question is simple: is there any evidence—literary or inscriptional, ritual or mythological—that any of these gods were ever understood by the people that worshiped them as having actually died and then returned to life again? It is a simple question but Mettinger does not believe that the scholars who have reacted against Frazer's thesis have been completely honest. In his book Mettinger sets the record straight and gives his own even-handed interpretation of the evidence.

We will now move forward and examine each of these deities and address some of the issues that influence whether or not they should be viewed as "Dying and Rising Gods." We will also see how closely inter-related they all are, despite the fact that one of them is Canaanite (Baal), three of them are Phoenician (Melqart, Adonis and Eshmun), one is Sumerian-Assyrian (Dumuzi), and one is Egyptian (Osiris). Is it indeed the case, as Tim Freke alleges within the quote at the head of this study that "Fundamentally all these godmen are the same mythical being"?
 

Ugaritic Baal

In approximately 1200 BC the Temple complex of Ras Shamra, in the ancient north Syrian port of Ugarit, was catastrophically destroyed and buried. When this site was finally excavated by archaeologists in 1929 a treasure trove of ancient texts was unearthed which have become a primary source for historians studying the religion of the ancient Canaanites and Phoenicians. What they have found is that Canaanite culture had a highly structured view of the universe, of the gods, and of mankind's relationship with both.

The Canaanite pantheon was a four-level hierarchical structure. At the top there was the great ancient god El, with his consort the mother goddess Asherah. El was described as the father of the gods, yet he did not play a very active role in world affairs and scholars have labeled him an "otiose" deity. He was a figurehead only and remained far removed and inactive.

The second level was made up of the seventy sons of El and Asherah. These were the great gods that did play an active role in human affairs. They each had their allotted areas of activity and they constantly fought each other directly as well as indirectly through their manipulation of human beings.

The third level consisted of the lesser deities, the angels, who acted as servants, messengers and foot-soldiers of the gods, and every god had a huge retinue of these.

The fourth level was the level on which human beings existed. We were the slaves and property of the gods. Human society was also organized in a hierarchical structure, with a priesthood dictating the will of the gods, a monarchy making sure that it was obeyed, and a complicated civil-service network of officers and scribes ensuring organization, efficiency and piety.

In Canaanite religion El was honored and worshiped but he was not recognized as the principal divine figure that ruled directly over the gods and over mankind. That principal divine figure was the god Baal, and it is the myth known as the Baal Cycle that explains how Baal rose to become the universally acknowledged "King of the Gods." It is also within this myth that evidence exists for placing Baal within the category of "Dying and Rising Gods."

The Baal Cycle begins with the world in a transition period. El is looking fondly towards retirement and so he appoints the god Yam, his son, as his successor to act as the King of the Gods. Yam takes over as the head of the pantheon but he rules the world as a tyrant. Asherah the Queen Mother attempts to appease Yam by offering herself as a sacrifice but she is prevented by Baal, who then confronts Yam and defeats him in battle after a complicated series of events.

Baal takes over as the King of the Gods but then he is confronted by El's new favorite who is Mot the god of the Underworld. What happens next is disputed by scholars. The ancient texts are clear that Mot is victorious and that Baal disappears for a period of time, but was Baal actually killed and was his period of disappearance spent in the Underworld? After considering evidence from many different sources Mettinger makes a very convincing argument that Baal was indeed killed and that he did exist in the Underworld before being resurrected. For Mettinger, Ugaritic Baal is indeed a "Dying and Rising" god.

Another major question that scholars grapple with is the source and evolution of the Baal myth. How did the worship of Baal evolve and why did the Canaanites create a story of a usurper god who rose to a position as the King of the Gods?

Modern scholars have concluded that Baal has much in common with the Babylonian god Marduk whose ascendancy to divine kingship is related in the Babylonian creation epic the Enuma Elish, which predates the Baal Cycle of Ugarit. In the Enuma Elish Marduk is the son of Ea/Enki who is one of the primary Sumerian gods that we will examine in a future article. Ancient historians such as Philo of Byblos, Plutarch of Delphi, and Berossus of Babylon all agreed that Baal and Marduk were in fact the very same god.
 

Melqart of Tyre

The Canaanites were the inhabitants of the Levant at the time of the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt and their settlements stretched from what is now southern Israel all the way up to northern Syria. There are many parallels between the Phoenicians and the Canaanites and often they appear to be the very same culture. However the following distinction can be made: The Canaanites were primarily the inland inhabitants who were more influenced from the Babylonians and the Assyrians, while the Phoenicians were the coastal dwellers of the port cities of Tyre, Sidon, Byblos and Aradus, known for their skill as seafarers and for their activities as colonizers of the entire Mediterranean basin. The Phoenicians were therefore more influenced by Egypt, as opposed to Babylon or Assyria, and they in turn were a great influence upon the Greeks.

The Phoenicians appear to have recognized the god Baal as the chief deity of their pantheon, yet each Phoenician city also worshiped a unique city-god that they especially revered. In Tyre the name of that god was Melqart. The Greeks knew him as Heracles (the Roman Hercules) and from their Phoenician contacts they absorbed Heracles into their own pantheon early on and created a separate identity for him over the centuries. Ancient historians were therefore always careful to make the distinction between the Greek Heracles and the Tyrian Heracles who was Melqart.

The history of Melqart is much more mysterious than that of Baal, Marduk or Osiris, because there are no full-length mythological narratives of his career and all we have are bits and pieces. In his analysis Mettinger refers to Philo of Byblos who wrote that, "Demarous had a son Melkarthos, who is also known as Heracles." In Ugarit Baal is referred to as Dmrn, which means "The Warrior" and from this Mettinger concludes that we may have a tradition here that Melqart was once known as a son of Baal. [2]

What is important for this study, however, is whether or not Melqart was viewed as a "Dying and Rising" god. Mettinger refers to two different traditions that describe the "death" of Melqart. He first offers the following quote from Eudoxus of Cnidus from an inscription dating to around 200 BC,

"...the Phoenicians sacrifice quails to Heracles, because Heracles, the son of Asteria and Zeus, went into Libya and was killed by Typhon; but Iolaus brought a quail to him, and having put it close to him, he smelt it and came to life again."

The reference is to the Phoenicians, and this, plus evidence from other ancient sources, makes it clear that this tradition refers to the Tyrian Heracles who is Melqart. His death is given as having been inflicted by Typhon which parallels the traditions of Osiris being killed by Set and Baal being killed by Mot. Typhon was a Greek god who was viewed by the ancient historians as the very same as the Egyptian god Set, while there are parallels between Typhon and Mot as well.

The second tradition regarding the death of Melqart seems to have developed from the Phoenician practice of cremation and Mettinger gives a number of sources that describe a death by fire as the final end of Melqart. In summation it is very well attested that Melqart was understood as at least a "Dying" god.

The evidence that Melqart was also understood as a "Rising" god is very interesting but somewhat controversial, although not for Mettinger. It has to do with a ritual tradition known to the Phoenicians as the "Awakening of Heracles." This tradition is related by the Jewish historian Josephus in one of the different translations of a passage from his book Antiquities of the Jews. It refers to the time of King Solomon and the activities of King Hiram of Tyre,

"He (Hiram) built the temple of Hercules and that of Astarte, and he was the first to celebrate the awakening of Heracles in the month of Peritius." [3]

In support of this translation Mettinger also refers to other various inscriptions that allude to the cult of Heracles and mention a specific person known as the "Awakener" or "Resuscitator" of Heracles. Mettinger sums it up this way,

"Our conclusion so far is that there are certain reasons to believe that there was, in the Phoenician mainland and in Palestine, in Hellenistic times, a cultic celebration referred to as the (awakening) of the god, a celebration in which some agent was referred to as the (awakener), 'the resuscitator of Heracles'." [4]

The Old Testament also offers evidence that the Phoenicians worshiped a god that was known to be asleep and in need of awakening. In 1 Kings 18:19-46 the prophet Elijah faced off against King Ahab, who was married to Jezebel, a princess of Tyre. Ahab and Jezebel had led Israel into idolatry through the worship of Baal and Elijah was called to demonstrate that the Lord God of Israel was indeed Israel's true God.

Elijah was able to convince Ahab to agree to a divine showdown on the top of Mt. Carmel near the sea to the south of Tyre. Two altars were prepared, one for Baal and one for the God of Israel, and Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of Baal to call fire down from heaven in the name of Baal to burn up their sacrifices. After the prophets of Baal had prayed and leaped around all morning, unsuccessfully appealing to Baal for a miracle of fire, Elijah began to mock them saying,

"Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened." [5]

Elijah's final remark was an insult directed specifically towards the Tyrian worship of Melqart/Heracles, who was known to be "asleep" and who was ritually "awakened" during the city of Tyre's annual cultic ceremony. At this particular event on the top of Mt. Carmel neither Melqart nor Baal (perhaps Melqart was Tyre's Baal) responded to the efforts of their priests, but fire did come down from heaven for Elijah after he offered a quick word of prayer, which burned up the sacrifices, the stones of the altar, and the surrounding water-filled trench.
 

Adonis of Byblos

Adonis is the second Phoenician city-god that we will examine. His original cult center was in Byblos, located about 20 miles north of the modern city of Beirut, Lebanon.

Mettinger explains that there are two different versions of the myth of Adonis that explain his relation to the Underworld and to the "Dying and Rising" category. One version simply states that Adonis was a young hunter who was killed by a boar and this version of the myth is elaborated upon in Lucian's second century AD work, De Dea Syria,

"I did see... in Byblos a great sanctuary... in which they perform the rites of Adonis... They say... that what the boar did to Adonis occurred in their territory. As a memorial of his suffering each year they beat their breasts, mourn, and celebrate the rites... they first sacrifice to Adonis as if to a dead person, but then, on the next day, they proclaim that he lives and send him into the air.  ...There is also another marvel in the land of Byblos. A river from Mount Lebanon empties into the sea. Adonis is the name given to the river. Each year the river becomes blood red and, having changed its color, flows into the sea and reddens a large part of it, giving a signal for lamentations to the inhabitants of Byblos. They tell the story that on these days Adonis is being wounded up on Mt. Lebanon..." [6]

The other version is much older and a summary of it comes from the fifth century BC author, Panyassis:

Some say that when Adonis was still an infant Aphrodite, for the sake of his beauty, hid him in a chest unknown to the gods and entrusted it to Persephone. But when Persephone beheld him, she would not give him back. The case being tried before Zeus, the year was divided into three parts, so that Adonis should stay by himself for one part of the year, with Persephone for one part, and with Aphrodite for the remainder. However Adonis made over to Aphrodite his own share in addition. For this reason Adonis may be counted among those who were in the Underworld and came back to be among the living. [7]

Persephone was the wife of Hades, the Greek god of the Underworld, which is why Adonis was said to spend one third of the year there. Mettinger quotes from the Christian writer Cyril of Alexandria who refers to an Alexandrian pagan festival that was based upon this myth. It began with weeping and wailing on behalf of Aphrodite for the loss of her son and then ended with rejoicing after she returned from the Underworld having found him.

Origen and Jerome are two other early Christian writers who took notice of the Adonis myth and ritual and both of them, in their commentaries on Ezekiel 8:14, equated Adonis with the Sumerian god Tammuz. They also both clearly identified Adonis/Tammuz as a "Dying and Rising" deity. Despite the apparent certainty of both Origen and Jerome, Mettinger points out that the twin elements of both "Dying" and "Rising" seem to appear rather late in the Adonis cult. This prompts his following comments,

"We must realize that the Adonis cults were exposed to strong competition from the Christian church. Could the notion of the resurrection of Adonis perhaps be a feature 'confiscated' from Christianity? To ask that question is to ask whether or not we have reasons to think that Adonis was a dying and rising god already in pre-Christian times." [8]

At the end of his analysis Mettinger concludes that there is simply not enough data on the early Adonis cult to give a conclusive answer to this last question.
 

Eshmun of Sidon

Eshmun is the third Phoenician city-god that we will examine who is alleged by many scholars to belong to the category of "Dying and Rising" gods. His primary cult headquarters was in the city of Sidon, but he was revered throughout the Near East. He was known by the Greeks as the god Asclepius, a god noted for healing. A useful short narrative of his life comes from Damascius, a fifth century AD Neo-platonic philosopher,

"Asclepius of Berytus, he says, is neither a Greek nor an Egyptian but a native Phoenician. For to Sadykos sons were born, who are explained as Dioscouri and Kabeiri. Then as the eighth child, Esmounos was born [to him]; and Esmounos is interpreted as Asclepius. He was of very good appearance, a young man of admirable looks, and therefore became, according to the myth, the darling of Astronoe, a Phoenician goddess, the mother of the gods. He used to go hunting in these valleys. It then once happened that he discovered the goddess pursuing him. He fled, but when he saw that she continued to chase him and was just about to seize him, he cut off his own genitals with an axe. Greatly distressed at what had happened, she called Paian and rekindled [the life of] the young man by means of life-bringing heat and made him into a god. The Phoenicians call him Esmounos because of the warmth of life. Others, again, interpret Esmounos as "the eighth", explaining that he was the eighth child of Sadykos." [9]

Mettinger is wary of accepting too much of the account from Damascius at face value. Perhaps the "rekindling" of the "life" of Asclepius was merely a successful nursing of his wounds? Other sources must be brought forth if we are to conclude that Eshmun is indeed a "Dying" as well as "Rising" god, which Mettinger immediately provides.

The first reference is simply to that of a Lebanese place name that must certainly date back to ancient times, known as the Qabr Smun, located about 15 km southeast of Beirut. The name translates as "Tomb of Eshmun." If Eshmun once had a tomb, then he must have once died.

Mettinger finds a second reference in the writings of a medieval Islamic scholar who quotes from the second century work of Galenus. These short lines attest to Eshmun's resurrection,

"It is generally known that Asclepius was raised to the angels in a column of fire, the like of which is also related with regard to Dionysos, Heracles, and others..." [10]

Mettinger concedes that the information on Eshmun is very limited and that it is probably not enough to offer firm conclusions. However, our understanding of Eshmun can be supplemented if we accept that Eshmun was probably very closely related to Baal and also to Melqart. Concerning Melqart Mettinger offers the following,

"...the formulation may indeed be a result of the close relationship between Eshmun and Melqart. Thus, in two treaties between Assyria ... and cities to the west we find Melqart and Eshmun together. What is probably a genitive relation, smn mlqrt, is found on Cyprus (Kition) during the fourth century B.C.E. This double name may be understood in different ways. In any case, it seems to testify to a cultic proximity or even fusion of the gods Eshmun and Melqart. This cultic proximity could indicate that the two gods are of broadly the same type. The fact that both have Ashtart as their spouse supports this assumption. What we know of Melqart as a dying and rising deity might then shed light on Eshmun. But, admittedly, this last possibility is highly hypothetical." [11]
 

Dumuzi of Sumeria

We now turn to one of the far older alleged "Dying and Rising" gods of the ancient Near East—Dumuzi of Sumeria. The earliest text that relates the story of Dumuzi and his connection with the Underworld comes from a Sumerian poem called Inanna's Descent, which has been dated to the twenty-first century BC. This story involves Sumerian figures that will become much more familiar in future articles, but for now here is the basic story [12]:

Inanna the goddess and Queen of Sumeria one day determined to take over the Underworld. She gathered everything she needed and abandoned her responsibilities on earth and in heaven and she set out, making her way past the seven gates. At each gate she was required to leave something behind and when she finally stood in front of her twin sister Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Underworld, she was completely naked. Inanna forced her sister off of her Underworld throne and then took her place.

Then seven Anunnaki judges appeared and they rendered a harsh decision against Inanna, accusing her of abusing her power. They gave her the look of death and then hung her corpse up on a hook, giving the throne back to Ereshkigal.

Upon learning that Inanna was being held lifeless in the Underworld her minister Nincubura approached the Sumerian gods Enlil and Nanna for help, but they refused. Only after approaching Enki at his holy city of Eridu did Nincubura find hope.

After listening to Nincubura Enki created two rescuers from the dirt under his fingernails, giving one of them the water of life and the other the food of life. They were then sent out and they successfully penetrated the Underworld, finding Inanna, and giving her the life-giving food and water, after which she was brought back to the surface.

After escaping from the Underworld Inanna found that she was being chased by demons who demanded to take Inanna back. Inanna bargained with them and found that they would be willing to accept a substitute, but she balked at the thought of the demons taking someone she loved. However, she finally agreed to allow them to take her husband Dumuzi, the human King of Sumeria, back to the Underworld in her place.

Soon after giving up Dumuzi Inanna felt guilty and mournful at the loss of her husband, so she then decreed that Dumuzi's sister Geshtinanna should be a second substitute and they would each serve half of every year in the Underworld.

In Inanna's Descent Dumuzi appears only as a secondary figure, but the important thing is the end result and how this was reflected in Sumerian religion and in the Assyrian and Babylonian religions that followed after. It is clear from the later texts, as well as from the Old Testament, that Dumuzi, later known as Tammuz, was mourned every year upon the anniversary of his entrance to the Underworld (his death), and then celebrated every year upon his reappearance from the Underworld (his resurrection). This is enough for many scholars to classify him as a "Dying and Rising" god.

Mettinger is more careful to come to a conclusion and he first considers the question of whether or not Dumuzi was even truly a god. The texts are clear that Dumuzi, although a mythical king, was still just a human being. His name even appears on the Sumerian King List as an early ruler after the Flood who immediately preceded the hero Gilgamesh:

1) Meskiagkasher, son of Utu, became high priest and king - reigned 324 years...
2) Enmerkar, son of Meskiagkasher, king of Uruk, the one who built Uruk - reigned 420 years
3) Lugalbanda, a shepherd - reigned 1,200 years
4) Dumuzi, the [...], his city was Kua[ra] - reigned 100 years
5) Gilgamesh, his father was a lillu-demon, a high priest of Kullab - reigned 126 years

Even though Dumuzi was clearly a human being Mettinger argues that he was still recognized as a god by the Sumerians and later groups. The Sumerian distinction between human and divine was not always clear, plus we have the case of Gilgamesh who was born partially divine but still fully worshiped as a god. Mettinger concludes that Dumuzi's cult had to have given him the recognition of a god.

Dumuzi/Tammuz also possessed a number of characteristics that parallel the other "Dying and Rising" gods that we have analyzed. For instance, both Dumuzi and Adonis were said to live a portion of their lives in the Underworld. With Dumuzi it was half the year and with Adonis it was a third. Also, the ritual of the mourning of Tammuz was held in the summer, which was the same time that the annual mourning/celebrating of Adonis took place, while the raising of Tammuz must have taken place in the winter, near the month of Peritius (February-March) when the celebration of the "Awakening of Heracles" took place. Recall as well that Origen and Jerome (see Adonis above) both clearly believed that Adonis and Tammuz were the very same figure.
 

Osiris of Egypt

Osiris is clearly the oldest (from prior to 2500 BC) and probably the most-understood of all of the alleged "Dying and Rising" gods of the ancient Near East. His myth was related in Part Two, so we do not need to cover it again here. Because Osiris was the oldest of this class of gods then we can expect that his cult was also the most influential, which is what we find when we compare Osiris with members of the rest of the group.

Regarding Adonis of Byblos we find that there are connections between Byblos and Egypt that reach back deep into antiquity. Mettinger writes that "we should calculate with the possible presence of a cult of Osiris at Byblos from the Late Bronze Age and onward, perhaps even earlier." Mettinger also refers again to Damascius' work De Dea Syria in which was written that there "are some inhabitants of Byblos who say that the Egyptian Osiris is buried among them and that all the laments and the rites are performed not for Adonis but for Osiris." Damascius also writes that the worshipers of Adonis shaved their heads for the annual ceremony in the same manner that they did in Egypt.

There are several connections between the myths of Osiris and Adonis that exist. In the first place, according to Plutarch's version, the casket of Osiris after leaving Egypt washed up in Byblos, and it was there that Isis recovered the body of Osiris. Also, the very name 'Byblos' means papyrus in Greek, and the city probably received that name because in ancient times it was the main distributor of Egyptian papyrus in the region. There is also evidence that Byblos was once perhaps a colony or even property of Egypt. Mettinger explains that in Byblos "the local ruler uses Egyptian language and writing, recognizes Pharaoh as his right lord, and carries the title of an Egyptian official... In the Amarna letters, the ruler of Byblos says that Byblos is like Memphis to the king (Pharaoh)." [13]

To say then, that Osiris and Adonis are figures that developed separately but from the same ancient source is certainly a reasonable conclusion. The Phoenician city of Byblos was located north of its sister cities of Sidon and Tyre, and all three of these primary city-gods: Adonis, Eshmun and Melqart, were closely related if not originally the same. Furthermore, all of them appear to link with Osiris.

The connection between Osiris and Eshmun exists on the mythic level and is perhaps the least obvious of the three. After the body of Osiris was brought back from Byblos to Egypt it was discovered by Set who cut it up into many pieces that were then scattered throughout the land. All of these pieces were then found by Isis except for the phallus. In the myth of Eshmun we also find an emphasis on the phallus, where Eshmun cuts off his own genitals upon being captured by his pursuer the goddess Astronoe, who is Ashtart who then becomes the wife of Eshmun, who is simply the Phoenician version of Isis the wife of Osiris. 

In Greek myth Eshmun is known as Asclepius and, as we will explore later, a strange connection between Asclepius and Giza is given in the Hermetic writings that date to the second and third centuries AD.

When it comes to Melqart/Heracles there is also extensive evidence linking him with Osiris. We have already seen that there was a high cult functionary in Tyre who was known as the "Awakener" or "Resuscitator" of Melqart. Mettinger points to fourth century BC inscriptions from Tyre in which this cult leader refers specifically to the god Osiris as "my lord Osiris."

Mettinger also considers whether there may be a connection between the Tyrian rituals of the "awakening of Melqart/Heracles" and the numerous "raise yourself" litanies found in the cult of Osiris, especially within the Pyramid Texts. Below are just a few examples: [14]

Utterance 498
"Awake, Osiris! awake, O King! Stand up and sit down, throw off the earth which is on you! I come and give you [the eye of] Horus... Go up and take this bread of yours from me."

Utterance 532
"Raise yourself, O Osiris, first-born son of Geb, at whom the Two Enneads tremble... Your hand is taken by the Souls of On, your hand is grasped by Ra, your head is raised by the Two Enneads, and they have set you, O Osiris, at the head of the Conclave of the Souls of On. Live, live and raise yourself!"

Utterance 603
"Raise yourself, O my father the King, knit on your head, gather together your members, lift yourself up on your feet, that your will may guide you..."

Utterance 628
"Rouse yourself, O King! Turn yourself about O King! I am Nephthys, and I have come that I may lay hold of you and give to you your heart for your body."

One of the major cult centers of Melqart/Heracles was located at Gades in Spain, near the ancient location of the Pillars of Hercules monument. The second century AD writer Philostratus, in his Life of Appolonius, comments on this place and gives support for the notion that Melqart was simply Tyre's version of Osiris. Mettinger explains,

"Philostratus' description of the Melqart/Heracles cult at Gades contains a feature that could perhaps be seen in the light of a connection between Melqart and Osiris. Apollonius speaks of a dual cult at Gades of "both one and the other Hercules" and goes on to distinguish between "the Egyptian Hercules" and "the Theban." The latter is the Greek Heracles. De Dea Syria speaks of the sanctuary of Heracles at Tyre, who is not "the Heracles whom the Greeks celebrate." The Egyptian Hercules at Gades is then, presumably, the Tyrian Melqart. If so, there must be some reason for describing the Tyrian Melqart as the Egyptian Hercules. If he had become associated with Osiris, we would understand this way of referring to him." [15]

The association becomes even more solid if we recall again that the myth of Melqart/Heracles says that he was killed by the god Typhon, who is the Greek equivalent of the Egyptian god Set, the murderer of Osiris. Furthermore, the murder of Heracles took place in Libya, and in a future article we will explain how this could possibly be a reference to ancient Egypt and not to modern-day Libya.

The connection that exists between Osiris and the other ancient Near Eastern "Dying and Rising" gods appears to be real and it appears to be solid. The case would be closed if not for one major problem. It is the fact that of all of these gods it is Osiris who is actually the least-suited to be a member of the category. It has to do with the "Rising" aspect of Osiris and is something that any amateur student of Egyptology can easily point out. Mettinger looks to Egyptologist Henri Frankfort to bring it to our attention:

"Osiris, in fact, was not a "dying" god at all but a "dead" god. He never returned among the living; he was not liberated from the world of the dead, ... On the contrary, Osiris altogether belonged to the world of the dead; it was from there that he bestowed his blessings upon Egypt. He was always depicted as a mummy, a dead king..." [16]

To put it bluntly, Osiris was not a "Dying and Rising" god, but a "Dead and Gone" god! The so-called "Resurrection" of Osiris was not to this world, but to the next, which is why he was known as the Lord of the Underworld, and why the Greeks also equated him with their god Hades. If Osiris was the initial creator of the "Dying and Rising" category, from whom all of the others originated, then what can explain this glaring discrepancy?
 

The Osiris Agenda

In mid-October of 2005 the most recent complete scholarly analysis of Osiris and his cult is due to be released. The book is written by the highly-credentialed and well-respected Egyptologist Bojana Mojsov and the title is Osiris: Death and Afterlife of a God. It may be a coincidence, but it must be noted that the release of this volume will occur near the very same time that new investigations at Giza are scheduled to take place under Zahi Hawass, as noted in Part One. If anything is found relating to Osiris then Mojsov's book will probably receive international attention and acclaim. Strangely, one of the main thrusts of Mojsov's book appears not to be cultural or archaeological, but rather spiritual. Here is the book description as given at Amazon.com:

"Osiris, ruler of the netherworld, played a central part in the religious life of the ancient Egyptians, and his cult grew in popularity down the ages, resonating in all the cultures of the ancient Mediterranean. This is the first book to tell the story of the cult of Osiris from beginning to end. Drawing together the numerous records about Osiris from the third millennium BC to the Roman conquest of Egypt, Bojana Mojsov sketches the development of the cult throughout 3,000 years of Egyptian history.

The author proves that the cult of Osiris was the most popular and enduring in any ancient religion. She shows how it provided direct antecedents for many ideas, traits, and customs in Christianity, including the resurrection after three days, the concept of god as trinity, baptism in the sacred river, and the sacrament of the Eucharist. She also reveals the cult’s influence on other Western mystical traditions and groups, such as the Alchemists, Rosicrucians, and Freemasons."

Again, we have an emphasis on the relationship between Osiris and his cult and Jesus and the doctrines of Christianity. We have seen in this article, as well as in Part Two, that this strange connection is real and that it is not something that was artificially created merely to discredit Christianity. The phenomenon exists. We must deal with it. To ignore it or to explain it away as so many Christians do would be either cowardly or dishonest.

Near the end of his book Mettinger concedes that a strange connection does exist between Christianity and the "Dying and Rising" gods of paganism. However, he does not believe that the existence of this pre-Christian phenomenon must necessarily mean the non-existence of the Jesus Christ of New Testament Christianity. Here is what he writes,

"There is, as far as I am aware, no prima facie evidence that the death and resurrection of Jesus is a mythological construct, drawing on the myths and rites of the dying and rising gods of the surrounding world. While studied with profit against the background of Jewish resurrection belief, the faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus retains its unique character in the history of religions. The riddle remains." [17]

Part Four will continue with an investigation into the origin of Egyptian civilization and of Osiris their most important god. An answer to the riddle exists, but will the world be willing to accept it?
 

Next

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Footnotes

1. The Riddle of Resurrection, Mettinger, 2001, p.16

2. Ibid, p.85

3. Ibid, p.89 citing: Josephus, R. Marcus, Loeb edition, vol.5, 1988: p.651

4. Ibid, p.91

5. 1 Kings 18:27, NASB

6. Mettinger, p.133

7. http://homepage.mac.com/cparada/GML/Adonis.html

8. Mettinger, p.136

9. Ibid, p.155

10. Ibid, p.160

11. Ibid, p.160

12. Inanna's Descent: http://www.earth-history.com/Sumer/sumer-inana-descent-netherworld.htm

13. Adonis facts: Mettinger, pp.176-77

14. The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, translated by R.O. Faulkner, 1969

15. Mettinger, p.181

16. Ibid, p.172

17. Ibid, p.221


 

Peter Goodgame
September 22, 2005
www.redmoonrising.com