Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Story Behind Osiris

Dr. Alice C. Linsley

The early Hebrew temple priests were dispersed among many different populations in the ancient world and their caste is older than the first dynasties of Egypt. The oldest known site of Hebrew worship is Nekhen on the Nile (4000 B.C.) The city was dedicated to Horus, the Son of the High God. It is sometimes called the "Falcon City" because the totem of Horus was the falcon.

Golden Horus of Nekhen (c. 2400 B.C.)

At the most fundamental level early Egyptian religion was Proto-Saharan. The Saharan origins of the rulers of Egypt has been well documented by the Canadian archeologist Mary McDonald.

The belief of the early Hebrew in a High God and his Son morphed over the many centuries into various narratives. The many elaborations involve conflicts between deities, rivalries between cults, and the introduction of ideas quite foreign to the early Nilotic context of the Hebrew people. The syncretism of late Egyptian beliefs is largely due to the necessity of holding together a vast empire that extended from Nubia (Ethiopia) to Turkey.

When I write about the Ra-Horus-Hathor narrative, I typically receive objections such as this:

Horus was Not called the “son of God” but the son of the “Moon [later SUN] God (i.e., “HOsieRUS”, “Osirus”). His so-called “virgin” mother (i.e.,”Isis”), the sister of Osirus, employed a reed in order to replace the only part of Osirus’ 15 body parts not to have been recaptured, to help her bare Osirus’ son-Horus! Not exactly a “virgin” birth! One of the primary distinctions that you failed to mention here is that Isis and Osirus were full sister and brother, a relationship completely prohibited by most ancient cultures, especially the semitic cultures! (From Derek Leman)

Here are the facts related to this jumble of misinformation.

Osirus was a pre-Dynastic ruler and a devotee of Hathor (the Overshadowed One) and her son HR (the Most High One). Osirus was an early Nilotic ruler, not a god. However, over time he was elevated to a deity. This is evident in many of The Ancient Pyramid Texts, some of which date to as early as 6200 years ago. The deification of especially powerful rulers was a common practice in the Ancient Near East, Asia, and India. In the Hebrew Scriptures the term "gods" often refers to high-ranking rulers or what Genesis 6 terms "the mighty men of old". 

Consider Psalm 58:1 in these different versions:

The New Oxford Annotated Bible: "Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?" Here "gods" refers to rulers.

The New Jerusalem Bible: "Divine as you are, do you truly give upright verdicts?" Again, the reference is to one who renders judgement, not to a deity.

The Jewish Study Bible: "O mighty ones, do you really decree what is just?"

Derived and Attributed Authority

The deification of rulers results from two streams of authority: derived and attributed. Because the ruler was seen to be the High God's representative on earth and the one whose duty was to enforce divine law, his authority was derived from God.

If the ruler proved over time to be just or righteous in his actions and decrees, the priests would attribute deification. This was noted by the SR designation in the ruler's epithet and or royal name. Osiris is O-SiR. Among the Sumerians and Akkadians SR designated a king (šarrum) and a queen (šarratum).

Conflicting narratives

The cult of Osiris as a deity developed concurrently with Egyptian expansionism (c.1900-1100 BC). Narratives from this period present Osiris as the father of Horus, but earlier Nilotic iconography depicts Horus as the one who gives life or immortality to the deceased kings, including Osiris. 

Horus is the Greek rendering of the ancient Egyptian HR which means "Most High One" or "Hidden One". 

HR is the son of Ra/Re. Re in ancient Egyptian means "Father of". Long before Judaism, the Horite Hebrew and the Sethite Hebrew were devotees of God Father and God Son. In Utterance 699 of the Pyramid Texts, Horus ascends aloft and is exalted at his Father's side. The prayer reads: "Be young, be young beside your Father." 

In a text from around 2200 B.C. Horus says about the deceased king, "I recognize my Father in you." 

A Horite song found at the royal complex at Ugarit speaks of Horus who descends to the place of the dead "to announce good tidings." 

Horus is also described as rising on the third day (Pyramid Texts, Utterance 667).

The emblem of Re and HR was the Sun, never the Moon since the Moon was regarded as the lesser light (Gen. 2). 

The mother of Horus was called Hathor. Much later in history, Hathor is transformed into a fertility goddess called Isis. The same happened with Osirus. He too was transformed into a fertility god.

The many changes to the original Ra-Horus-Hathor narrative came with Egypt's imperial expansion. It became necessary to include elements of other religions to keep the peace. The elaboration on simpler beliefs and the tendency to syncretism have been observed by other anthropologists such as Andrew Lang. The earliest known religions were not polytheistic as developed with later Egyptian religion.

The miracle surrounding Hathor is not the "virgin birth" as much as the miraculous conception of the son of God by divine overshadowing. That is why Hathor is always shown with the Sun over her head, and why Gabriel explained to Mary that she would conceive the Most High by overshadowing (Luke1).

The person quoted above (Derek Leman) is unfamiliar with the marriage pattern of the early Hebrew. They married only within their Hebrew ruler-priest caste, and it was common for the high-ranking rulers to marry their patrilineal cousins and half-sisters. Sarah was Abraham's half-sister. The Hebrew clans practiced bride exchange to strengthen the caste bonds.

It was a common practice for the royals of ancient Egypt to marry sisters, half-sisters, and cousins, and sister marriage is mentioned in the Song of Solomon (4:10-12).

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