Saviour-gods Mutilated Throughout Antiquity 1

Sav­iour-gods Muti­lat­ed Through­out Antiquity

One of the big ques­tions nobody has asked about Mel Gib­son’s The Pas­sion Of The Christ is this : If the cru­ci­fix­ion was a his­toric event and so cen­tral to the Chris­t­ian Gospel, why is it that there is no evi­dence what­ev­er of a man on a cross in Chris­t­ian art and mon­u­ments for almost sev­en centuries ?

Not until 692 CE, in the reign of Emper­or Jus­tin­ian II, was it decreed that hence­forth instead of a lamb (the zodi­a­cal sign of Aries) fixed on the cross, the fig­ure of Jesus be placed there instead. Anoth­er ques­tion : How is it that the ear­li­est known fig­ure of any man on a cross comes from about 300 BCE and that per­son” is not Jesus but Orpheus, a myth­i­cal Greek sun-god ?

More sig­nif­i­cant­ly, why were there so many cru­ci­fied or oth­er­wise muti­lat­ed sav­iour-gods in antiq­ui­ty ? One has only to think of the cut­ting to pieces of the lat­er res­ur­rect­ed Osiris, or of Horus, or Diony­sus, or Prometheus, or many more sim­i­lar­ly tor­tured hero-divini­ties. Schol­ar Kersey Graves once wrote a book titled The World’s Six­teen Cru­ci­fied Sav­iours : Chris­tian­i­ty Before Christ. Sem­i­nary did­n’t tell me that.

Sure­ly the ques­tion must arise in minds that are accus­tomed to think­ing and not just to accept­ing every sto­ry pre­sent­ed by state, reli­gion, or the media at its sur­face val­ue : Could there be some deep­er mean­ing to this whole dying-ris­ing god myth that pops up every­where in the ancient world ? Was Mel Gib­son’s great­est error not the ubiq­ui­tous and ever-so-care­ful­ly filmed gore in his two-hour ser­mon but the fact that he took absolute­ly lit­er­al­ly some­thing that can only be prop­er­ly under­stood in the con­text of what cru­ci­fix­ion sym­bol­ism is all about ?

Make no mis­take : The ancient sages who devised the great myths of Sumer, Chaldea, Egypt, and Greece had not the slight­est inter­est in exter­nal his­to­ry as we know it. Their major con­cern was the eter­nal truths of the human heart and the secrets of our inner, spir­i­tu­al evolution.

Every god in every ancient reli­gion had to suf­fer and die to depict two realities :

That each of us is a bear­er of a frag­ment or spark of deity. God has become flesh in each of us. This is the God with­in or, in Chris­t­ian terms, the Christ in you.” It’s the inner mean­ing of the Chris­t­ian doc­trine of the Incarnation.

This was a cost­ly sac­ri­fice, a divine out­pour­ing in love and pity for the ani­mal-human that could only be expressed sym­bol­i­cal­ly as a tear­ing into pieces of God’s very being. The ancients said : The gods dis­trib­ute divin­i­ty.” The giv­ing out of pieces of bread at a Eucharist — an almost uni­ver­sal phe­nom­e­non glob­al­ly in every ear­ly cul­ture — is pre­cise­ly about this sac­ri­fi­cial dis­tri­b­u­tion of divine ener­gies. The body of human­i­ty and the body” of God are re-mem­bered or put back into one grand har­mo­ny in this sym­bol­ic act. The same is true of the shared cup of wine — a rit­u­al par­tak­ing of the spir­i­tu­al essence of God’s life.

How­ev­er, in the 3rd cen­tu­ry CE, the Church suc­cumbed to the temp­ta­tion to pan­der to the igno­rance of the mass­es and so took the old eso­teric doc­trine, sim­pli­fied it and turned it into lit­er­al­ized his­to­ry. The truth about God com­ing in man — i.e., into every human — to raise us up, became a lit­er­al sto­ry about God com­ing as a man.

To make sure this sto­ry stuck, all pagan oppo­si­tion was quelled with an unequaled fury. Mys­tery schools and philo­soph­i­cal acad­e­mies were closed down, libraries of books were burned, and anath­e­mas were hurled at all who dared to raise objec­tions. Those who risked every­thing by point­ing out that the Chris­tians had tak­en over all the old Pagan myths, rites, and cer­e­monies but trans­formed them by lit­er­al­iz­ing every­thing were either ban­ished or killed.

That so-called pious frauds,” forgery and deceit of every kind were wide­ly used in a cov­er-up is tes­ti­fied to by some of the ear­ly Chris­t­ian apol­o­gists them­selves. Even the major church his­to­ri­an, Euse­bius — as shifty a writer as one could imag­ine, accord­ing to Edward Gib­bon — gloat­ed over the fact that he man­aged (in his account) to make every­thing right” for the Church.

There is glo­ri­ous good news at the heart of the Chris­t­ian mes­sage but Gib­son’s film with its pon­der­ous­ly lit­er­al­ist approach does­n’t even come close to it. It’s small won­der there is so much vio­lence in the world if the God behind and through it all con­dones — no, demands — the lit­er­al kind of vio­lence Gib­son has proved him­self so pro­fi­cient at putting on the screen.

But, it’s not only the vio­lence that is so off-putting. It’s the mis­un­der­stand­ing of what the New Tes­ta­ment dra­ma is actu­al­ly about. One can’t blame Gib­son. The Church itself has to face the enor­mi­ty of the harm its fail­ure to under­stand its own mes­sage has brought to mil­lions through the centuries. Saviour-gods Mutilated Throughout Antiquity 2Endmark

Tom Harpur’s lat­est book is The Pagan Christ : Recov­er­ing the Lost Light (Thomas Allen)

1 Comment

  1. You might want to see a dev­as­tat­ing rebu­tal to Tom Harpur’s work at http://​www​.tek​ton​ics​.org/​h​a​r​p​u​r​01​.​h​tml

    Sev­er­al schol­ars and jour­nals also have giv­en heavy crit­i­cism to this jour­nal­ist’s work :

    http://www.mcmaster.ca/mjtm/pdfs/MJTM%206.7%20Heath%20on%20Harpur.pdf

    http://​www​.grebel​.uwa​ter​loo​.ca/​t​m​t​c​/​n​e​w​s​l​e​t​t​e​r​s​/​2004​o​c​t​.​pdf

    The fol­low­ing is by a schol­ar who inter­viewed key schol­ars in the field­’s Harpur tries to deal with

    http://​hnn​.us/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​s​/​6641​.​h​tml

    In which he notes :

    Who is Alvin Boyd Kuhn ? He is giv­en the title Egyp­tol­o­gist’ and is regard­ed by Harpur as one of the sin­gle great­est genius­es of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry” [who] tow­ers above all oth­ers of recent mem­o­ry in intel­lect and his under­stand­ing of the world’s religious.”

    As it turns out, Kuhn was a high school lan­guage teacher who was an enthu­si­as­tic pro­po­nent of Theos­o­phy, a prodi­gious author and lec­tur­er, who self-pub­lished most of his books.

    Ron Lep­ro­han, Pro­fes­sor of Egyp­tol­ogy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, point­ed out that while sa” means son” in ancient Egypt­ian and iu” means to come,” but Kuhn/​Harpur have the syn­tax all wrong. In any event, the name Iusa’ sim­ply does not exist in Egyptian.

    There is no evi­dence for the idea that Horus was a fish­er of men’ or that his fol­low­ers (the King’s offi­cials were called Fol­low­ers of Horus”) were ever twelve in number.

    KRST is the word for bur­ial” (“cof­fin” is writ­ten KRSW”), but there is no evi­dence what­so­ev­er to link this with the Greek title Chris­tos” or Hebrew Mashiah”.

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