Essay:A discussion of the Christ myth hypothesis as presented in Zeitgeist
Please note that this essay only addresses the claims of Jesus-mythicism as they are presented in the conspiracy film 'Zeitgeist'. It does not deal with the movement as a whole. I intend to write an article about that at some point.
Zeitgeist begins with a short discussion about the sun and how it was worshipped throughout the ages. The first twenty sentences of the film up to the part where it says 'This is Horus' are true. He then describes Horus as 'the sun god of around 3,000 BC'. This is false. Horus was the god of the sky. Although he was, at one point, said to contain both the sun and the moon (at least according to an uncited sentence on his wikipedia article). Ra was the sun god of Egypt. The video describes him as the sun anthropomorphised, ignoring the fact that he was not the sun god. Not to mention that much astrological evidence they cite is astronomically incorrect. It should always be a warning sign when someone starts using astrology to get a point across. The only part that reflects Egyptian mythology is that Horus had an enemy known as Set and was the son of Isis. It describes the battle between Horus and Set as the cause of day and night. There was certainly a conflict between Horus and Set, but I cannot find a credible source that explains it as the cause of day and night. It also seems to ignore the presence of Nut in the Egyptian pantheon.  Maybe when Peter Joseph says broadly speaking he means "what I am about to tell you is complete bullshit".
The next sentence in the movie states that Horus was born on December 25th to the virgin Isis-Meri. This is complete garbage. There is no mention of Horus being born on December 25th anywhere in Egyptian mythology. There is also no mention that Isis was a virgin. Contrary to the belief expressed by Christopher Hitchens in God is not Great, there is absolutely no evidence for it. I apologise if suggesting that Hitchens might fall victim to confirmation bias is seen as blasphemy. The conception of Horus was immaculate, but the fact that she created a gold phallus for her husband in the traditional story would suggest otherwise. It is true, however, that many mythical fertility goddesses were virgins, as much sense as that makes. Funnily enough D.M. Murdock (the one responsible for much of this nonsense) even admits this in her book on page 149 . Her defence is almost laughable, claiming that she is not dealing with "set in stone biographies". I am not in a position to comment on the name Isis-Meri. Geisters claim to have found hieroglyphs supporting it. I cannot read hieroglyphs, so I do not know if this part is true or not.
It is claimed in this video, as well as on many pagan sites that the birth of Horus was signaled by a star in the east and was visited by three kings. This does not appear anywhere in Egyptian mythology, though it is certainly a popularly held belief. Furthermore, Jesus was visited by an unstated number of wise men in the book of Matthew, who were probably priests of Zoroaster. The only suggestion of the number three is in the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  the movie also claims that Horus was a prodigal child teacher in egyptian mythology. There is no mention of any such thing in Egyptian mythology, particularly something as specific as the god's age at a given period. It is claimed that he was baptised by Anup, while the phrase 'thus began his ministry' is used to make a blatant comparison to Jesus of Nazareth. The figure Anup does not seem to appear outside pseudoegyptological texts by the likes of Gerald Massey and other assorted nutcases cited on the Zeitgeist website. . The website www.religioustolerance.com actually had to remove this claim from their website after failing to find a credible source.. Nevertheless, the website still makes the same tired claim about the virginity of Isis without a decent source. This is actually one of the citations on rationalwiki's article on virgin birth.
The next claim concerning Horus is that he had twelve disciples he travelled about with performing miracles. There are stories where Horus has four disciples. This is an uncited claim from page 262 of Christ in Egypt, though it does also appear in a book by Massey. There were four gods who followed Horus, collectively known as the Heru-Shemshu, at least according to one of the most respected British Egyptologists of the last century.  It depends who you trust more: E.A. Wallis or the conspiracy nuts. There are also references to him having sixteen human followers, though I can't find the origin of that version either. As for the point about miracles, Horus wouldn't be much of a religious figure if there weren't stories where he performed miracles.
The film further asserts that Horus was known by the names the truth, the light, gods anointed son, the good shephard, the lamb of god" and many others. He was surely known by many names, but I can't find any of these in a reliable source. Also, the use names 'God's anointed son' and the 'lamb of God' would just be silly in a polytheistic culture. There is a further claim that Horus was betrayed by Typhon. This is probably to be a bastardisation of a Greek reinterpretation of the Osiris-Horus myth in which Set is replaced by the Greek monster Typhon. It is a story by Diodorus Siculus that draws a close comparison to one concerning Zeus and Dionysus.
The narrator goes on to compare a number of other gods to Jesus through these supposedly shared characteristics. It is claimed that "Attis of Phrygia, born of the virgin Nana on December 25th, crucified, placed in a tomb and after three days was resurrected". The only credible source I can find linking Attis to a given date is Encyclopedia Britannica, where March, April and November are the only months mentioned. The festival of Hilaria did indeed celebrate the resurrection of Attis, but every other claim made about him seems to be completely false. It is then claimed that Krishna was "born of the virigin Devaki with a star in the east signalling his coming". Krishna was the eighth son of Devaki. Calling her a virgin is ludicrous. Even the Zeitgeist homepage gives no citation mentioning a "star in the east", though there is mention of a star. The comparison to Dionysus is not completely groundless, as there is certainly a story of Dionysus turning water into wine and he did become a symbol of resurrection. Although I can't find the source of this belief, he may have been amalgamated with the Egyptian god Osiris, which would account for the origin of the story. The only other thing that seems to be true in this segment is that Mithra's day of worship was Sunday. At very least, it is attested by Kenneth S Guthrie.  However, pretty much every "gestural" name attributed to these gods in the video is false.
When it comes to the discussion of Jesus, the similarities are supposed to be obvious. Joseph even took the phrase "thus began his ministry" straight from scripture when describing Horus, despite the fact Horus did not have a ministry. It claims that Jesus was visited by three kings, which, as I have stated earlier, does not appear in scripture. The rest of what he says about Jesus is true. However, hardly any of it applies to the previously mentioned gods. This is when he starts using astrology to explain things, which is always as tell-tale sign of a crank. The "facts" presented here are either astronomically inaccurate or completely misleading. It claims the tree stars known as "three kings" held the same name in ancient times as they do now, though evidence of this doesn't seem to exist anywhere. I am not in a good position to comment on the subject, but the astrological claims of the movie are torn to pieces here: http://www.tracer345.org/zeitgeist.html and here http://cs.astronomy.com/asycs/forums/p/28809/386566.aspx.
More 'evidence' comes in the form of word play that seems to ignore the fact that Egyptians and Israelites probably had languages that were in fact different from English. It claims that the name Bethlehem (House of Bread) refers to the grain of wheat held by the constellation Virgo. This ignores a) that Bethlehem is an actual place and was probably not, in all likelihood , named after a constellation. The movie also employs deliberate word-play between the son and sun dying on the cross. Indeed, the transcript employs the phrase "sun dies on the cross" (sic) more than once. It would be nice to know whether or not these words sounded at all similar in Hebrew and Ancient Egyptian or Ancient Greek. Let's have a look. The Greek is Helios and aitia The Hebrew is ben and shemesh  and the ancient Egyptian (as far as we know) is Ra and I simply can't find what "son" may have been. I acknowledge that the words may have changed over time, but the attempt to use similarities between English words to explain these perceived coincidences is just plain idiotic.
Essentially, what the movie does is take a fairly legitimate hypothesis and use conjecture and astrology to distort the truth to the point of turning it into absolute, irredeemable bullshit, and it (just like the woo cited in the movie's transcript) starts off with hardly any basis in fact to begin with.
- (p. 22–23)
- Matthew 2:11
- Osiris", Man, Myth & Magic, S.G.F Brandon, Vol5 P2088, BPC Publishing.
- Burkert, Walter, Greek Religion, 1985 pp. 64, 132