Friday, November 03, 2006

Horus, Jesus, And Jon Curry

Earlier this week, I began a series of posts on the infancy narratives. Jon Curry, who often makes false claims about Christianity without doing much research (see here, for example), decided to involve himself in the discussion in his usual manner. He claims that the lack of documentation in his posts is because he takes a "laid back" and "easy going" approach toward these discussions. His "laid back" approach seems indistinguishable from carelessness. Among many bad arguments in his latest posts, Jon writes:

"It [the virgin birth] is probably something they [the early Christians] would like to believe. It makes Jesus just as good as the other dying and rising god's of the time, as Horus is also born of a virgin. Or Anakin Skywalker."

When I mentioned that Jon didn't document his assertion about Horus, he commented:

"I've documented it multiple times. You've ignored it."

What Jon has repeatedly cited is a Wikipedia article, and I've repeatedly explained to him why relying on that article is problematic. The article is anonymous and has a warning at the top about how its content "may not be reliable". Why are we supposed to trust what that article says about Horus? If you go to the comments page for the article, you'll find many examples of the absurd claims the article has contained in its many editions. It's been edited repeatedly, and it still has many problems. It repeatedly makes claims without citing any source. What does it tell us about Jon Curry when he repeatedly relies on such sources for his information and repeatedly cites them when his claims are disputed, even after he's warned about the unreliable nature of the material?

One of the sources the Wikipedia article mentions is Tom Harpur. In an article responding to Harpur, the Biblical scholar W.Ward Gasque writes:

"I sent an email to 20 of the world's leading Egyptologists, outlining the following claims put forth by Kuhn (and hence Harpur)...That Horus also 'had a virgin birth...[the Egyptologists responded that] there is no evidence for the idea that Horus was virgin born."

The Wikipedia article claims that parallels between Jesus' infancy and that of Horus are "most obvious" in some carvings in a temple in Luxor. The atheist Richard Carrier (the same Carrier cited in the past by Jon Curry) argues against such an interpretation of the Luxor inscription. Carrier writes:

"The Luxor inscription also does not depict impregnation by a spirit, but involves very real sex (indeed, the narrative borders on soft-core porn), and the woman involved is the mythical Queen of Egypt in an archetypal sense, not Isis per se....The inscription in Panel 4 (which is often cited on the web as the key frame) describes the god Amun jumping into bed with the human Queen on her wedding night (or at any rate before she consummates her marriage with the human King) disguised as her husband. But she recognizes the smell of a god, so he reveals himself, then 'enters her' (sic). The narrative then gets a bit risque--the god burning with lust, queen begging to be embraced, there's kissing going on, Amun's buddy Thoth stands by the bed to watch, and after Amun 'does everything he wished with her' she and Amun engage in some divine pillow talk, and so on. At one point the queen exclaims amazement at 'how large' Amun's 'organ of love' is, and she is 'jubilant' when he thrusts it into her....At any rate, the couple relax after 'getting it on', and the god tells her in bed that she is impregnated and will bear his son, Amenophis. To be more exact, the Queen inadvertently chooses the name by telling Amun she loves him, which is what 'Amenophis' means. It follows from this fact that Panel 8 (when the ankh is touched to the Queen's nose) does not depict an impregnation. The queen is already long pregnant in that scene. In fact, she is already 'showing.' Instead, it is the birth that is announced then, not the conception, and Kneph then proceeds to impart the god's soul into the divine fetus, using the ankh (perhaps this indicates quickening, but at any rate the fetus was already there when this happens). The birth itself occurs in Panel 9....Kneph only forms the fetus and the soul and unites them, he does not impregnate the Queen (Amun does that, the old fashioned way)...So I think the parallels here [between the Luxor inscription and the infancy narratives of the New Testament] are very weak."

In contrast to Jon Curry's careless use of unreliable sources, the material I've recommended to him cites widely regarded scholars in relevant fields, such as Bruce Metzger and Jonathan Z. Smith. (See the relevant sections in Steve Hays' book on the resurrection, J.P. Holding's article here, and Glenn Miller's article here.) All Jon has given us is an anonymous Wikipedia article that's been shown to have many errors and doesn't offer us any documentation for the claim under discussion.

Even if Horus was viewed as born of a virgin prior to the time of Christianity, that fact alone wouldn't give us sufficient reason to conclude that Christianity probably borrowed the concept from the Horus account. Jon Curry not only has failed to show a pre-Christian belief in Horus' being born of a virgin, but also fails to take the further step of showing that such a pre-Christian belief undermines the Christian doctrine of Jesus' virgin birth in the manner he's suggested.

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