Did Christianity Absorb any Ideas from the Ancient Egyptian Mythology?

I mean, the Egyptians were very careful about burying their dead (mummification), seems to me modern day Christians go in for elaborate funerals as well.
How about the resurrection? The Egyptian belife was that there would be an afterlife, and to get into Heaven, you had to be judged (and found worthy).
also-the ranks of demi-gods that the Egyptians had-were they like the Christian saints?
Or is it just historical coincidence?

As I learned from Bill Maher’s recent documentary Religulous, the story of the ancient Egyptian god Horus shares much in common with the story of Jesus of Nazareth.

I haven’t seen the film, but I wouldn’t have said there’s all that much similarity between those two.

I’d say that the similarities also show a lot of differences. Mummification and preparation of the dead was because a whole body was required in order to move on into the afterlife, whereas most Christians tend to believe that after death the body itself is unimportant. The judging of worthiness isn’t decided by a particular being, but against a standard representative of that which was considered good - plus judging after death isn’t all that uncommon a religious belief. And of course there were multiple gods, working oftentimes against each other, much like the Greek and Roman deities who I imagine could be more easily linked to the Egyptian.

But I am not a scholar of either faith.

If you’re going to argue that culture X influenced culture Y, it’s not sufficient to argue that there are similar themes between the two. You have to look at every culture around them at the same time. Are the same themes found in cultures A, B, C, D, E, etc.? Which cultures have the closest themes? Perhaps then you can say that it appears that the theme is original to one of the cultures X, Y, A, B, C, D, E, etc. Sometimes you can’t show which culture is the originator of that theme. Sometimes a similarity in themes is just coincidence because it’s easy to imagine that two cultures could come up with the same theme by themselves. I’m being vague here with the term “theme” because a culture’s religious beliefs are only one of the sorts of things that get borrowed from one culture to another. At the very least, you would thus have to look at all the cultures in the Ancient Middle East if you wanted to discover who borrowed what from who.

Uh, I take it someone has been messing with the wikipedia entry?

Yeah. That paragraph was a recent entry, from an unsigned IP address with a history of vandalism, and has just been undone. :slight_smile:

Some aspects of the Egyptian religion were adopted into Judaism, and hence into Christianity. Psalm 104 is thought to be based on an Egyptian Hymn to the Sun.

A lot of people “oversell” the idea of other vreligions on Christianity, but there are undoubted similarities, even in this case. IIRC, the image of Isis holding the infant Horus has been compared by respected Egyptologists to much later images of Mary holding Jesus.

Many of the items claimed for Horus have actualy been made in the case of Mithras – the December 25 birth, the title “Savior”, and the resurrection three days after death. This, I note, is the relatively late Mithraism, not the much older Zoroastrian religion. See David Ulansey’s book on The Origin of the Mithraic Mysteries.

According to one Islamic scholar, the Egyptian Cult of Osiris is actually the source of many religious traditions we typically ascribe to Judaism and to Christianity via Judaism. I think he lists something like 42 specifics. If anybody’s interested I’ll try to dig it up.

I don’t know if it came directly from Egyptian mythoogy, but the “judgment after death” aspect always seemed very similar to me. The dead came before Anubus, who weighed their hearts on a scale. If their hearts were lighter than the feather of Ma’at, the goddess of justice, they were brought before Osiris, and if not, they were destroyed.

I’d be interested in reading that article if you can find it, Napier.

Since the Egyptians were overlords of Palestine for stretches at a time, it’s no surprise that they influenced (and probably were influenced in turn) by the pre-Exile proto-Jews they ruled over.

But a lot more of the influences on Christianity (distinct from Judaism) can be traced to Hellenism and mystery religions, IMO. I mean, equating the Egyptian pantheon and the saints? That’s stretching things quite a bit, isn’t it? And they were full gods, not demi-gods.

I’d always heard Jesus was more of a lift from Mithra but I don’t recall any details now, only that both were crucified. (Of course, lots of deities got crucified. Ask Odin how he learned the alphabet. ;))

Actually the other way around. Roman Mithraism came after Christianity.

The Ancient Egyptian faith was pretty defunct by the time of Christianity. Cleopatra led a brief resurgance, true.

Ancient Christian burials started out a lot like Jewish burials of the same period. No suprise there.

Not according to Ulansey, who places the origin of the Mithraic Mysteries prior to the time of Christ. But it seems to have been pretty close in time.


from Scientific American, December 1989 (vol. 261, #6), pp. 130-135

Reprinted here:


Mithraism did precede Christianity, but many of the Mithra-Christ parallels (such as the Crucifixion) don’t appear until after Christ. Things like the Winter Solstic “birth of the Sun God” have no relevance to Biblical Christianity. Also, the fashionable “Sun God/Son of God” parallel DOESN’T WORK IN ANY OTHER LANGUAGE!

I saw a doc on this a few months ago–can’t remember the name:smack:. But it indeed made a point of the similarities between Horus and jesus.

"*It is not possible to state with certainty when “the mysteries of Mithras” developed. Clauss asserts[10] “the mysteries” were not practiced until the 1st century CE. Mithraism reached the apogee of its popularity around the 3rd through 4th centuries, when it was particularly popular among the soldiers of the Roman Empire. Mithraism disappeared from overt practice after the Theodosian decree of 391 banned all pagan rites, and it apparently became extinct thereafter.

Although scholars are in agreement with the classical sources that state that the Romans borrowed the name of Mithras from Avestan Mithra,[11] the origins of the Roman religion itself remain unclear and there is yet no scholarly consensus concerning this issue (for a summary of the various theories, see history, below)…Mithraism began to attract attention in Rome around the end of the first century. Statius mentions the typical Mithraic relief in his Thebaid (Book i. 719,720), around 80 CE. The earliest material evidence for the Roman worship of Mithras dates from that period, in a record of Roman soldiers who came from the military garrison at Carnuntum in the Roman province of Upper Pannonia (near the Danube River in modern Austria, near the Hungarian border). Other legionaries fought the Parthians and were involved in the suppression of the revolts in Jerusalem from 60 CE to about 70 CE When they returned home, they made Mithraic dedications, probably in the year 71 or 72.

By the year 200, Mithraism had spread widely through the army, and also among traders and slaves. During festivals all initiates were equals including slaves. The German frontiers have yielded most of the archaeological evidence of its prosperity: small cult objects connected with Mithras turn up in archaeological digs from Romania to Hadrian’s Wall."

If you look at this PDF cite
the earliest archeological evidence for Roman Mithraism dates to AD140. He also debinks the Plutarch testimony, saying that “…it provides no information whatsoever about the nature of the Mithras-cult perfromed by the Cilician pirates, and less than that on it’s iconography and architecture, if any (for the latest discussion of this subject see Francis apud Cumont, 1975)”


This guy takes on most of the “pagan Christ” theories & shows that a lot of them were practically invented by a couple of late-1800’s eccentrics.

Btw, I’m not even hostile to the idea of Pagan myths similar to Jesus. I just always thought it was the Pagan version of Messianic prophecy. However, the claimed parallels rarely hold up.

I’m not seeing the similarities.

Re Mummification-IIRC Early Christian burial was burial in a family tomb. After your flesh rotted off and they needed your space for a new relative, your bones were swept into a pile with the rest of the family.

Re Horus- Horus was born of an incestuous union between sister and dead-at-the-time brother. Horus purpose in life was to kill his uncle. I’m not seeing any similarities.