Osiris-Dionysus


#1

Hello:

I am still discerning my faith and came so absolutely close to Catholocism until I read about Jesus compared with the gods like Osiris-Dionysus. It seemed that there were a lot of similarities and now I am questioning things even more. Please shed some light on your views of these similarities and please keep me in your prayers. thanks


#2

Osiris was the Egyptian god of fertility, and Dionysus was the Greek god of wine and revelry. Dionysus was the son of Zeus, and Osiris the son of the earth god Geb.

So, I guess the only real similiarities between Jesus and these mythological figures is that He is the Son of God, and they were the sons of “gods”.

Oh, and Jesus drank wine.

There is a long history of people being martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ – including the Apostles, who knew Him personally. There is no such record of martyrs for Dionysus or Osiris, or any other mythological god, and there is no significant congregation of people who still worship them, as far as I am aware.

If you try hard enough, you can draw correlations between Christ and any pagan pantheon, but that doesn’t mean there are any. People who use arguments like these to discredit Christianity are starting with an assumption and seeking support for the assumption, to the exclusion of critically analyzing the facts. It’s a false pretense – don’t be misled.

Peace,
Dante


#3

Firstly what particular ‘similarities’ are you talking about? From the little knowledge I have of Osiris and Dionysus there aren’t too many.

Secondly why are you calling yourself a Catholic in your profile if you ain’t one?

Thirdly - is it Catholicism you have a problem with or Christianity in general?


#4

Hi Walt!

First of all, I’d like to encourage you to continue in your exploration of the Catholic Faith.

You are not the first to note the similarities between Christ and certain mythic figures in pagan religions. Might I suggest that you begin to explore the writings of C.S. Lewis? He, too, saw and meditated on these similarties in his writings

Lewis, accepted that myth could teach spiritual truth and that pre-Christian myths foreshadowed and pointed to Christianity. Lewis and the other Oxford scholars that became Christians (such as J.R.R. Tolkien) believed that myth couldn’t help but show spiritual truths and realities. J.R.R. Tolkien expected Christ-figures in particular to appear in myths, because he saw them as emerging from human minds in which were found all the longings and yearnings that ‘the Christ-event’ was meant to fulfil.

In a very real sense, C.S. Lewis’ interest and passion for paganism helped fuel his eventual embrace of the Christian faith. According to Walter Hooper, paganism played a large part in Lewis’ own journey to faith.[5] Pagan myth and Christian truth became intertwined for Lewis in a number of ways.

In Surprised by Joy, Lewis’ autobiography, Lewis talks about the love he had for pagan mythology from childhood and says that some of his earliest experiences of “Joy” were his encounters with paganism in Wagner’s “Ring” cycle and the exploration of Norse mythology that resulted from it. He wrote that he "passed on from Wagner to everything else I could get a hold of about Norse mythology, Myths of the Norsemen, Myths and Legends of the Teutonic Race, Malet’s Northern Antiquities. I became knowledgeable. From these books again and again I received the stab of Joy.“ [Lewis, Surprised by Joy, p. 78 (New York, 1995)] Lewis’s first significant friendship was the result of a mutual interest in Norse mythology and is a very telling story about his inner passions and joys.

And in the view of Tolkien, myth-making is a very human act, and something that we do in order to express truth. What are Aesop’s fables and fairy-tales after all? For centuries, they were the way that cultural values and truths were passed on from generation to generation. The truths are no less true just because they are transmitted in a myth, are they?

Tolkien thought that this human activity was also part of God’s self-expression of eternal truth. He said that just as God had expressed his truth in the images and poetry of pagan myths, so God had done in Christianity; the difference being that in Christianity God used “real people and actual history” instead of imaginary ones! The old “dying god” myths of paganism don’t disprove the death of Christ on the Cross, they foreshadow it!

Perhaps we could think of those myths as a form of “prophecy for pagans”? :slight_smile: After all, God prepared the people of Israel to receive the coming of His Son through Divine Revelation, but he also had to prepare the pagans to recognise the Truth of the Gospel once it was preached to them.

That realisation is what finally led C.S. Lewis toward a full embrace of and belief in Christianity and it was central to his conversion. From that point on, Lewis viewed Christianity as the “myth become fact.” Lewis wrote in his autobiography of his conversion experience, “Sometimes I can almost think that I was sent back to the false gods there to acquire some capacity for worship against the day when the true God should recall me to Himself.” (Surprised by Joy, p. 77).

So you appear to be in good company! :thumbsup: There’s no reason for any of that to become a stumbling block on your journey to Christ.

I’ll be praying for you!


#5

These things have been going around for a while now but in the last few years they have gotten alot of attention from the average joe due to stupid films like the god who wasnt there and a few others. Ive learned to NEVER give any of these things any weight for anything other than a few laughs.

First of all you can discount at least 60% of all of them you hear as straight lies. 30% you can chalk up to facts being taken out of context. The last 10% is simply something you would expect and is hardly in the realm of what would commonly be called “borrowing from another god” story and quite commonly its actually the pagan myths that borrow from Christ.

This site has excellent scholarship and deals with all the common Christ copycat stuff like the few you mentioned along with Mithraism, Baal, Hesuus and a slew of others:
tektonics.org/copycat/copycathub.html


#6

[quote=LilyM]Firstly what particular ‘similarities’ are you talking about? From the little knowledge I have of Osiris and Dionysus there aren’t too many.
[/quote]

Both Osiris and Dionysus were killed and returned from the grave.

Additionally, Bacchanalia might be compared to the Eucharist, and Osiris, as a god of death, sits in judgment over souls.


#7

Osiris can hardly be said to have “returned” from the grave unless you are changing definitions of “returned”. (BTW I believe he is god of the dead not of death)

“Osiris was murdered and his body dismembered and scattered. The pieces of his body were recovered and rejoined, and the god was rejuvenated. However, he did not return to his former mode of existence but rather journeyed to the underworld, where he became the powerful lord of the dead. In no sense can Osiris be said to have ‘risen’ in the sense required by the dying and rising pattern (as described by Frazer et.al.); most certainly it was never considered as an annual event.”

"In no sense can the dramatic myth of his death and reanimation be harmonized to the pattern of dying and rising gods (as described by Frazer et.al.)." 
Frankfort concurs: 
"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, as Tammuz was. 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." [Kingship and the gods: a study of ancient Near Eastern religion as the integration of society & nature. UChicago:1978 edition, p.289]

As far as Dionysus goes, theres so many stories as to what happened to him its hard to tell, considering our only records of him are dated after the first century, so it could easily have been copied by the pagans. Furthermore rising from the grave in the Greek sense was different from the Jewish sense. Heres a blurb I found:

In terms of rising from the dead, there have been a variety of ideas: one, a single inscription from Thasos that describes D (Dionysus) as “a god who renews himself and returns every year rejuvenated” [Col.VFG, 280] – whatever that means, we have no context with which to refer it; an idea that D went into Hades to rescue his momma, and came back (Frazer says that this return was celebrated annually by one group, the Argives; and he notes that whether it was a spring festival – not even guessing at an exact date – “does not appear”); a story that D was chased and persecuted by Lycurgus and descended to the depths of the Alcyonian Sea, and to the land of the dead [Ott.DMC, 68]; also the heart-rejuvenation above, which in another version has the heart placed in a body made of gypsum [Harr.PGR, 490]. Frazer [Fraz.GB, 323] did try to piece together such a story of resurrection; he did so first by appealing to a version of the Titan story in which Apollo (or Rhea), at the command of Zeus, reeassembled the pieces and buried them. Frazer goes on to say that “the resurrection of the slain god is not mentioned, but in other versions of the myth it is variously related”! How? In one version, which has D as son of Demeter, momma reassembles the pieces and makes D young again (our scholar calls this “an eccentric minority variant”). In others, “it is simply said that shortly after his burial he rose from the dead [in what form???] and ascended up to heaven; or that Zeus raised him up as he lay mortally wounded; or that Zeus swallowed the heart of Dionysus and then begat him afresh by Semele…[or] the heart was pounded up and given in a potion to Semele, who thereby conceived him.” With such a panoply of options, it may be no surprise that at least one variation bears a superficial resemblance to what happened to Jesus (“rose from the dead and ascended to heaven”), but this vague description does not match with the Jewish concept of resurrection (which the pagans found abhorrent our scholar adds, “Exactly - and where’s the Dionysiac promise of resurrection for all believers?”). There are also notes of a grave of D found at Delphi, and of a date associated with the awakening of D as an infant – November 8th, except on one island where the date is in January [Ott.DMC, 103, 194].


#8

There are other pre-Christian myths and religions which have even more striking similarities to the life of Christ, such as Mithras.

That used to bother me as well, so don’t feel too bad about it. It’s just something you have to read about and work through, mentally. What helped convince me was the witness of the Apostles and early martyrs, and also that these pre-Christian foreshadowings of the life of Jesus were just that: foreshadowing. Much as the Jewish faith existed to point to the savior of mankind, other Gentile religions did similar things.


#9

I use ‘returned’ in a general sense: they died, then they were not dead. And yes, Osiris is no psychopomp, but the point about him being a judge stands.


#10

Here’s Philvaz’s site, which links to several others including articleThis Rock by Carl Olson (co-wrote a Da Vinci Code rebuttal)


#11

As a friend of mine once said: the Catholic Church contains the fullness of truth, but that doesn’t mean that nothing else contains truth.

As another poster said above, such mythology does not disprove Christianity – it foreshadows it.

I tend to think that the vague similarities that may be found between the pagan religions and Christianity do, in fact, argue for the truth of Christianity.

Peace,
Dante


#12

That cuts both ways – conversely, the vague similarities between a particular pagan religion and other religions, including Christianity, could be said to argue for the truth of the first :wink:


#13

Thanks, that reminds me to finish that page! And the following one. I am using sources from our local university library.

the Egyptian god Osiris:

– Virgin Born? No.
– A “Son of God” ? Yes, if Geb is considered a deity (Osiris is the oldest son of Geb).
– A Savior? No.
– Performed miracles? No.
– Communal Meal of Bread/Wine? No.
– Crucified? No.
– Resurrected? Yes and No, depends how you interpret revivification. Scholars disagree.
– Ascended / Descended ? Yes, descends to the underworld.
– Divine Judge? Yes, presided over judgment of the soul.

the Greek god Dionysos (sometimes spelled Dionysus), or Roman god “Bacchus”:

– Virgin Born? No, born of a mortal woman but this was not a virgin birth since Zeus literally “slept with Semele secretly.”
– A “Son of God” ? Yes, son of Zeus.
– A Savior? Yes.
– Performed miracles? No.
– Communal Meal of Bread/Wine? Yes, wine was frequently involved with the cult.
– Crucified? No, ripped apart by the Titans.
– Resurrected? Restored to life from his heart. Is this a “resurrection” ?
– Ascended / Descended ? Yes, descends to the underworld.
– Divine Judge? No.

There other parallels with Dionysos, who did live BEFORE Jesus, whereas most of the “parallels” for the other “gods” show up actually AFTER Jesus lived. In other words, they were Christian influenced, not pre-Christian.

“Christianity, on the other hand, on the whole protected itself from such syncretism, albeit in part by incorporating into itself elements of other religions. Any similarities or mutual influence – in the symbolic structure of ritual or belief – between mystery-cult and Christianity should not blind us to the profound difference in their ethics and organization. Unlike the (generally nameless) initiates of Dionysos (or Mithras, etc), early ‘Christians’ were organized in regulated self-reproducing communities. The specific identity of the church was thereby preserved, and this was a factor in the eventually complete victory of Christianity over pagan mystery-cult…Christianity, an offshoot of Judaism in a Hellenised world, triumphed by simultaneously adapting to that world and nevertheless preserving its own organizational specificity. In doing so, it had to combat the rival appeal of Dionysos (as well as of other cults) without being entirely immune to his influence.” (Richard Seaford, Dionysos [Routledge, 2006], page 129, 130)

Jonathan Z. Smith in his book Drudgery Divine: On the Comparison of Early Christianities and the Religions of Late Antiquity (1990) concludes:

“…it is now held that the majority of the gods so denoted appear to have died but not returned; there is death but no rebirth or resurrection. What evidence was relied on by previous scholarship for the putative resurrection can be shown, it is claimed, to be based on a misinterpretation of the documents, or on late texts from the Christian era (frequently by Christians) which reveal an interpretatio Christiana of another religion’s myths and rituals, or a borrowing of the Christian motif, at a late stage, by the religions themselves…” (J. Z. Smith, Drudgery Divine, page 101)

Bruce Metzger, the great New Testament scholar and textual critic, is cited by Ronald Nash:

“It must not be uncritically assumed that the Mysteries always influenced Christianity, for it is not only possible but probable that in certain cases, the influence moved in the opposite direction…Unlike the deities of the Mysteries, who were nebulous figures of an imaginary past, the Divine Being whom the Christian worshiped as Lord was known as a real Person on earth only a short time before the earliest documents of the New Testament were written.” (Metzger in Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks, page 187, 186)

I recommend this book by the evangelical Nash: The Gospel and the Greeks: Did the New Testament Borrow from Pagan Thought? (P & R Pub, 1992, updated 2003)

Phil P


#14

What on earth did you read? My tip is to look for the 2,000 year old organizations that still serve those gods, and have over one billion enrolled, if not active, members. Of course, there is none but the Catholic Church. So, if you are still discerning, you have come to the right place. You ask-we’ll answer as best we can.

Peace be with you.


#15

Dear brother Phil,

Here are some additional notes about Osiris that may interest you:
Osiris was worshipped as the promise of the resurrection for the Egyptians (by virtue of his own resurrection)
Osiris was often attached to the Sun, the rising of which is described in Egyptian folklore as "being born of a virgin."
The violent death of Osiris is mourned by his worshippers as the passion of Osiris.
Osiris was born of a god, king on earth, died, rose again to eternal glory.

Blessings,
Marduk


#16

This tends to be my own opinion. God prepared the Jews for Jesus’ coming, apart from direct prophecy, with similarities and foreshadowings.

Plenty of parallels between, for example, Moses, Elijah or King David and Jesus.

It stands to reason, since Jesus came for people of all faiths, that all cultures would in some larger or smaller way have similarly been prepared for Him.


#17

marduk << Here are some additional notes about Osiris that may interest you: >>

Thanks, but I went by the most scholarly sources I could find at the university library. That doesn’t mean a quick Internet search. :stuck_out_tongue: My main source is The Encyclopedia of Religion edited by Mircea Eliade, articles on “Osiris” and “Dying and Rising Gods”. Here is a summary of the Osiris myth by religious scholar Jonathan Z. Smith in the article “Dying and Rising Gods” for the Encyclopedia of Religion (1987):

Osiris is murdered, his body is dismembered and scattered. The pieces of his body are recovered and rejoined, and the god is rejuvenated. However, he doesn’t return to his former mode of existence but rather journeys to the underworld where he becomes the powerful “lord of the dead.” “In no sense can Osiris be said to have ‘risen’ in the sense required by the dying and rising pattern; most certainly it was never conceived as an annual event.” The repeated formula “Rise up, you have not died,” whether applied to Osiris or a citizen of Egypt, signaled a new, permanent life in the realm of the dead.

marduk << Osiris was worshipped as the promise of the resurrection for the Egyptians (by virtue of his own resurrection) >>

Disputed point. Some do refer to Osiris as a “god of resurrection” (e.g. Bojana Mojsav, Osiris: Death and Afterlife of a God, pages xvi-xvii, [Oxford, 2005]) but this was wholly different than Christ’s bodily one. Most refer to him as a god or “lord of the dead…” Kind of a zombie-like existence in the underworld. According to Smith: Iconographically, Osiris is always depicted in mummified form; he is a powerful god of the potent dead. “In no sense can the dramatic myth of his death and reanimation be harmonized to the pattern of dying and rising gods.” (Smith, volume 4, page 524-525)

marduk << Osiris was often attached to the Sun, the rising of which is described in Egyptian folklore as “being born of a virgin.” >>

Source please. I have not found Osiris being born of a virgin, nor his mother producing Osiris by a “virgin birth.” The Egyptian gods were very sexual, we’re not talking virgins. It is a fertility cult. The Egyptian gods, like the Greek and Roman ones, had sex to produce offspring just like human beings.

marduk << The violent death of Osiris is mourned by his worshippers as the passion of Osiris. >>

Source please. Sounds like reading Christian terminology into Egyptian myth. There is no “passion” of Osiris, read the myth. How does Osiris die? He was tricked, stuffed alive in a coffin by a jealous brother (Seth), thrown in the Nile River, later his corpse was chopped up, the pieces were scattered. Isis finds the pieces and puts them back together, except the male member (it was eaten by a fish or something) which she replicates, then has sex with Osiris’ revivified corpse, and conceives Horus. We’re not talking Christianity here. :rolleyes:

marduk << Osiris was born of a god, king on earth, died, rose again to eternal glory. >>

Osiris is the oldest son of Geb (“earth” personified) and Nout (“mother of the gods” and goddess of the sky), the husband of Isis. It is true the myth was one of the best known and most widespread in pharaonic Egypt (the pharaohs were the “kings of Egypt”).

In an analysis of a debate on this topic, skeptic Richard Carrier says: “…I am not sure I understand [the] longwinded focus on the Osiris myth in the first place. This is easily the least persuasive parallel with Christianity among extant religions of the day. There are far more convincing cases for a pagan belief in a physical resurrection.” (see “Osiris and Pagan Resurrection Myths: Assessing the Till-McFall Exchange”)

Phil P


#18

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