Was Horus born of a virgin (Isis-Mary)?

  • About this question

    Some skeptics believe that Jesus either never existed, or is about as legendary as King Arthur (with perhaps a barely recognizable historical core). In defense of this belief, a subset of these skeptics even argue that Jesus suspiciously resembles some deity (e.g. Horus) and attempt to explain the resemblance by saying that the concept of Jesus was in fact borrowed copy of the deity.1 Whether or not Jesus actually was copied from Horus, does Jesus at least resemble Horus in being virgin-born?

    [WARNING: Some of the material in this post is sexually explicit, and two small images below include Egyptian wall drawings of a naked male (Osiris).]

    This helps answer:

    1. Peter Joseph & D.M. Murdock, The ZEITGIEST Sourcebook, 33, 56. For example:
      Tom Harpur: “Horus anticipated by thousands of years most of the sayings and the miracles of Jesus Christ—that he too had a virgin birth, and that in one of his roles, he was “a fisher of men with twelve followers.” [6.] “He is the ‘ever-coming child’ of the Virgin Mother, the great Isis, or a host of others.” [Pagan Christ (Walker Books, 2005), 82.]
  • Scholars agree: Horus was not virgin-born

    Horus had a biological father (Osiris), and was conceived through sex. There are at two different versions of how Horus, son of Isis, was conceived.
    FIRST, Horus was conceived by the union of Osiris and his wife Isis, just before Set killed Osiris.

    SECOND, Horus was conceived by the union of Horus and his wife Isis, just after Set killed Osiris and scattered pieces of him, and Isis reconstructed him, creating for him a new penis (since a fish ate that piece of him).

    Scholars generally agree that not even one pre-Christian source identifies Horus as virgin-born.1

    1. Here are some standard sketches:

      Civilizations of the Ancient Near East: “But after [Isis] had brought [Osiris' body] back to Egypt, Seth managed to get hold of Osiris's body again and cut it up into fourteen parts, which she scattered all over Egypt. Then Isis went out to search for Osiris a second time and buried each part where she found it (hence the many tombs of Osiris tht exist in Egypt). The only part that she did not find was the god's penis, for Seth had thrown it into the river, where it had been eaten by a fish; Isis therefore fashioned a substitute penis to put in its place. She had also had sexual intercourse with Osisis after his death, which resulted in the conception and birth of his posthumous son, Harpocrates, Horus-the-child. Osiris became king of the netherworld, and Horus proceeded to fight with Seth” [2:1702]
      Encyclopedia of Religion (vol. 7): “Isis is one of the most important deities in the Egyptian pantheon. The hieroglyph for her name was the throne... Scholars postulate that Isis was the personification of the throne… Isis was the daughter of Geb and Nuet… Osiris was her brother and husband, Horus their son. Isis helped women in childbirth… also a healer… goddess with a thousand names… After Horus decaptiated his bother, she received a cow head as a replacement… also linked to the female hippopotamas, a white sow, and a liion. … In the celestial sphere Isis was connected with Sothis or Sirius, the Dog Star (Canis Major). She was the bringer of the Nile's annual flooding,… Isis's manifestations mare manifold due to syncretism, an inbuilt fluidity allowed gods to merge with each ohter.” [Sarolta A. Takacs, 2nd ed. Lindsay Jones (ed) (Thomson Gale, 2005), 4557.]

      Egyptologists are nowhere saying Horus was born of a virgin. The culprits here, as usual, are fringe Jesus mythicists cherrypicking data and forcing it to fit their thesis. In discussing the different stories of Horus:
      Life and Culture in the Ancient Near East: “Seth managed to get hold of Osiris's body again and cut it up into fourteen parts, which she scattered all over Egypt. Then Isis went out to search for Osiris a second time and buried each part where she found it (hence the many tombs of Osiris tht exist in Egypt). The only part that she did not find was the god's penis, for Seth had thrown it into the river, where it had been eaten by a fish; Isis therefore fashioned a substitute penis to put in its place. She had also had sexual intercourse with Osisis after his death, which resulted in the conception and birth of his posthumous son, Harpocrates, Horus-the-child. Osiris became king of the netherworld, and Horus proceeded to fight with Seth...” [Life and Culture in the Ancient Near East, Averbeck, Chavalas, Weisberg (eds). (CDL, 2003), 2:1702.]
      Romanising Oriental Gods: “Isis resolves to hide the sarcophagus, but unfortunately Seth stumbled upon it one night while out hunting. In a fury he removed the body and ripped it into fourteen parts, which he proceeded to scatter about over the entirey country. Isis then began a sad tour up the Nile, protected by the crocodiles, in order to locate the pieces of her dismembered brother-husband. One by one she discovered them and give them burial, either, as one version has it, where she found them, or by having status of Osiris made out of aromatic wax and establishing a defunctive cult at each site, in order to prevent Seht form discovering which tomb was the rela one, and to ensure that the cult becaome as widely diffused as possible (Diod. Sic. 1.21.5-11; Strabo 17.1.23, 803c; cf. Senec, de superstitione ap. Serv. ad Aen. 6.154.) The only part she could not find was the penis (Diod. Sic.1.21.5), because Seth had tossed it into the Nile. So she made a replica, and set it up for worship, which continued down to Plutarch's day.” [Romanising Oriental Gods, James Alvar, tans. ed. by Gordon (Brill, 2008), 44.]
      Barbara Lesko (Egyptologist at Brown University): “…drawings on contemporary funerary papyri show her as a kite hovering above Osiris, who is revived enough to have an erection and impregnate his wife.” [Great Goddesses of Egypt (Great Goddesses of Egypt, 1999), 162.]
      Françoise Dunand (Egyptologist, professor at Strasbourg University), Christiane Zivie-Coche (Egyptologist): “After having sexual intercourse, in the form of a bird, with the dead god she restored to life, she gave birth to a posthumous son, Horus.” [Gods and Men in Egypt: 3000 BCE to 395 CE, trans by Lorton (Cornell Univeristy Press, 2005),39]
      Richard Wilkinson (Egyptologist/archaeologist, professor at University of Arizona [Editor of prominent Egypology journal]) “Through her magic Isis revivified the sexual member of Osiris and became pregnant by him, eventually giving birth to their child, Horus.” [Complete gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt, p. 146.]
      Geraldine Harris Pinch (Egyptologist, professor at Oxford): “Isis already knows that she is destined to bear a child who will be king. In order to bring this about, she has to revive the sexual powers of Osiris, just as the Hand Goddess aroused the penis of the creator to create the first life.” [Handbook of Egyptian Mythology (ABC-CLIO, 2002), 80]

  • A second virginity?

    Mythicist D.M. Murdock (Acharya S.) attempts to establish a parallel between Jesus and Horus by speaking of Horus's mother, Isis, being a virgin. This article assesses whether Isis did in fact conceive of Horus by sex. In response to the evidence that Horus was so conceived, Murdock has rebutted that Isis could have what she calls a “born again virginity,” wherein Isis may be understood as a virgin despite having conceived of Horus through sex (citing Philo).1 She is a “perpetual virgin” regardless of having sex.

    By way of response however…

    • This misreads Philo.2
    • Such obscure cherry-picking makes her thesis unfalsifiable.
    • The topic is whether Horus was virgin-born like Jesus, and he wasn't.
    1. Acharya states that Philo called Sarah a virgin again, sharing this quote from Book 5: “will not converse with Sarah before all the habits, such as other women have, have left her, and till she has returned into the class of pure virgins.” By way of response, however, Philo is speaking very poetically. Here is the context Acharya leaves out: "for they who live with these men are in name indeed wives, but in fact virtues. Sarah is princess and guide, Rebecca is perseverance in what is good; Leah again is virtue...” (Book 5. 12:41), then in this allegorical sense, Philo says God calls us as "thy house, and thy father, and the husband of thy Virginity". By this, Philo says “God is both a house, the incorporeal abode of incorporeal ideas” … “sowing for the race of mankind the seed of happiness in good and virgin soil.” This is highly poetic language that is not teaching that Sarah became a virgin again, but rather that in this quasi virtue talk God must expunge from us all vices to make us more virgin-like. [Philo Book 5. 14:50]
“No, after all…
  • Legend of the birth of Horus says “by sex”

    An Ancient pyramid text dated 2450-2140 B.C. reads:

    Thy sister Isis cometh to thee rejoicing in her love for thee. Thou hast union with her, thy seed entereth her. She conceiveth in the form of the star Septet (Sothis). Horus-Sept issueth from thee in the form of Horus, dweller in the star Septet. [”V. Legend of the birth of Horus, son of Isis and Osiris.”, in Legends of the Gods: The Egyptian Texts, ed with Trans. by Budge (1912), 179.]

  • The Narrative of Isis says “by sex”

    Likewise:

    “I am Isis, who conceived a child by her husband, and she became heavy with Horus, the divine [child]. I gave birth to Horus, the son of Osiris, in a nest of papyrus plants.” [“II. The Narrative of Isis” in Legends of the Gods: The Egyptian Texts, ed with Trans. by Budge (1912).]

  • Hymn to Osiris (on the stela Louvre C 286) says “by sex”

    This hymn reads:

    Isis the powerful, protectress of her brother, who sought him tirelessly, who traversed this land in mourning and did not rest until she found him;
    who gave him shade with her feathers and air with her wings;
    who cried out, the mourning woman of her brother
    who summoned dancers for the Weary of Heart;
    who took in his seed and created the heir,
    who suckled the child in solitude, no one knew where,
    who brought him, when his arm was strong, into the hall of Geb -- the Ennead rejoiced: “Welcome, Osiris' son, Horus, stout of heart, justified, son of Isis, heir of Osiris.”
    [Jan Assmann, Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt (Cornell University Press, 2001), 24-25.]

  • Pyramid Texts (Spell 366:632a-633b/T 198) says “by sex”

    We read:

    “Isis comes to you, rejoicing for love of you, that her seed might issue into her, it being sharp as Sothis. Horus, the sharp one, who comes forth from you in his name ‘Horus, who is in Sothis,’ may it be well with you through him in your name “Spirit in the dndrw-barque.” Horus has protected you in his name ‘Horus protector of his father.’” [Jan Assmann, Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt (Cornell University Press, 2001), 24-25.]

    But couldn't it be that this is referring to “seeding” the soil via the Nile overflowing its banks.2

    1. cf. PT 593:1636a-b/M206. James Allen's translation icludes the word “phallus,” since it comes from the word “sit,” [Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, 81, 95.].
    2. Mythicist D.M. Murdock comments,

      “the impression is given from the text that it is a description of the Nile (Osiris) overflowing its banks, spreading its ‘seed’ on the land (Isis) in order to create Horus … we are also not discussing sexual intercourse in the human sense, and Isis’s soil remains “virginal” or renewed each year” [Christ in Egypt, 148.]

      This comes from a view from Plutarch:
      Plutarch: “As they regard the Nile as the effusion of Osiris, so they hold and believe the earth to be the body of Isis, not all of it, but so much of it as the Nile covers, fertilizing it and uniting with it. From this union they make Horus to be born. The all-conserving and fostering Hora, that is the seasonable tempering of the surrounding air, is Horus, who they say was brought up by Leto in the marshes round about Buto (Isis and Osiris 38).” [Isis and Osiris 19][_Moralia_ (vol. 5: Loeb Classical Library: Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), [93.](https://www.loebclassics.com/view/plutarch-moralia_isis_osiris/1936/pb_LCL306.93.xml?)] In response however,
      • …By this reasoning, the banks must literally be the body of Isis, so that the terms virgin and so forth all lose their meaning. This “seeding” of the soil is nothing like the virgin birth of Jesus, even in concept.
      • …It seems no other Egyptologist takes Acharya's interpretation of this text. Many different versions of the story exist and it is seems unlikely that Plutarch is elucidating the version quoted in Spell 366 here.

  • Coffin Text (Spell 148) says “by sex”

    We read:

        The lightening flash strikes, the gods are afraid, Isis wakes pregnant with the seed of her brother Osiris [i.e. pregnant with Horus]. She is uplifted, (even she) the widow, and her heart is glad with the seed of her brother Osiris. She says:     “O you gods, I am Isis, the sister of Osiris, who wept for the father of the gods, (even) Osiris who judged the slaughterings of the Two Lands. His seed is within my womb, I have moulded the shape of the god within the egg as my son who is at the head of the Ennead. What he shall rule is this land, the heritage of his (grand-) father Geb, what he shall say is concerning his father, what he shall kill is Seth the enemy of his father Osiris. Come, you gods, protect him within my womb, for he is known in your hearts. He is your lord, this god who is in his egg, blue-haired of form, lord of the gods, and great and beautiful are the vanes [feathery part of plume as distinct from the stem] of the two blue plumes.”

        “Oh!” says Atum, “guard your heart, O woman!”
        “[Isis says:] How do you know? He is the god, lord and heir of the Ennead, who made you within the egg. I am Isis, one more spirit-like and august than the gods; the god is within this womb of mine and he is the seed of Osiris.”     Then says Atum: “You are pregnant and you are hidden [allusion to pregnant Isis hiding in the marshes of Chemmis], O girl! You will give birth, being pregnant for the gods, seeing that he is the seed of Osiris. May that villain who slew his father not come, lest he break the egg in its early stages, for the Great-of-Magic will guard against him.”
        Thus says Isis: “Hear this, you gods, which Atum, Lord of the Mansion of the Sacred Images, has said. He has decreed for me protection for my son within my womb, he has knit together an entourage about him within this womb of mine, for he [Atum] knows that he [Horus] is the heir of Osiris, and a guard over the Falcon who is in this womb of mine has been set by Atum, Lord of the gods. Go up on earth, that I may give you praise [said to the unborn Horus]. The retainers of your father Osiris will serve you, I will make your name, for you have reached the horizon, having passed by the battlements of the Mansion of Him whose name is hidden. Strength has gone up within my flesh, power has reached into my flesh, power has reached....” [there is a textual omission at this point]
        “...who conveys the Sunshine-god, and he has prepared his own place, being seated at the head of the gods in the entourage of the Releaser.” [unidentifiable speaker, probably either Isis or Atum]
        “[Isis speaks to her son who has now been born:] O Falcon, my son Horus, dwell in this land of your father Osiris in this your name of Falcon who is on the battlements of the Mansion of Him whose name is hidden. I ask that you shall be always in the suite of Re of the horizon in the prow of the primeval bark for ever and ever.”
         Isis goes down to the Releaser who brings Horus, for Isis has asked that he may be the Releaser as the leader of eternity.
        “See Horus, you gods! [Horus proclaims his power] I am Horus, the Falcon who is on the battlements of the Mansion of Him whose name is hidden. My flight aloft has reached the horizon, I have overpassed the gods of the sky, I have made my position more prominent than that of the Primeval Ones. The Contender [Seth] has not attained my first flight, my place is far from Seth, the enemy of my father Osiris. I have used the roads of eternity to the dawn, I go up in my flight, and there is no god who can do what I have done. I am aggressive against the enemy of my father Osiris, he having been set under my sandals in this my name of.... [meaning unknown]. I am Horus, born of Isis, whose protection was made within the egg; the fiery blast of your mouths does not attack me, and what you may say against me does not reach me, I am Horus, more distant of place than men or gods; I am Horus son of Isis.”
    [Spell 148 in R.O. Faulkner The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts: Spells 1-1185 & Indexes, volume 1 (Aris & Phillips, 1973), 125-126.]

    1. Cf. Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt by R.T. Rundle Clark, p. 213-217.
  • Legend of the Origin of Horus says “by sex”

    We read:

    Passage (1593-1293 B.C.), v 14-17: “Isis the magician avenged her brother. She went about seeking for him untiringly. She flew round and round over this earth uttering wailing cries of grief, and she did not alight on the ground until she had found him. She made light [to come forth] from her feathers, she made air to come into being by means of her two wings, and she cried out the death cries for her brother. She made to rise up the helpless members of him whose heart was at rest, she drew from him his essence, and she made therefrom an heir. She suckled the child in solitariness and none knew where his. place was, and he grew in strength. His hand is mighty (or, victorious) within the house of Keb, and the Company of the Gods rejoice greatly at the coming of Horus, the son of Osiris, whose heart is firmly stablished, the triumphant one, the son of Isis, the flesh and bone of Osiris.” [A Hymn to Osiris and a Legend of the Origin of Horus, in Legends of the Gods: The Egyptian Texts, ed with Trans. by Budge (1912), 104-105.]

  • Plutarch says “by sex”

    Plutarch: “Osiris consorted with Isis after his death, and she became the mother of Harpocrates [=Horus], untimely born and weak in his lower limbs” [Isis and Osiris 19][Moralia (vol. 5: Loeb Classical Library: Harvard University Press, 2003), 49.]

    1. Note: Plutarch also recounts a more symbolic kind of seeding. But it was symbolic of sexual intercourse. There is not a trace of the concept of virginity in it.

      Plutarch: As they regard the Nile as the effusion of Osiris, so they hold and believe the earth to be the body of Isis, not all of it, but so much of it as the Nile covers, fertilizing it and uniting with it. From this union they make Horus to be born. The all-conserving and fostering Hora, that is the seasonable tempering of the surrounding air, is Horus, who they say was brought up by Leto in the marshes round about Buto. [Isis and Osiris 19][_Moralia_ (vol. 5: Loeb Classical Library: Harvard University Press, 2003), [93.](http://www.loebclassics.com/view/plutarch-moralia_isis_osiris/1936/pb_LCL306.93.xml?)]

  • Relief shows Isis (represented by falcon) over Osiris's erect penis

    horus Tom Hare (Professor at Stanford): “There as well, the restoration of the body is complete only when the phallus is restored and made miraculously erect. At this pont, Isis becomes a small bird, a kite, and flies up to mount the phallus. She thereby receives the semen of the dead god and conceives his son Horus. … Comparisons of Osris to Atum are made most explicitly in a pair of reliefs from the Ninteeth Dynasty temple of menma'atre’ Seti I at Abydos, … Damaged and mutilated as the scens are, you can still clearly recognize their significance. On the south wall, the mummified body of Osiris lies on a bier, ithyphalluic. A bird labeled ‘Isis’ perches atop the phallus, receiving his seed for the conception of Horus.” [ReMembering Osiris: Number, Gender, and the Word in Ancient Egyptian Representational Systems (Stanford University Press, 1999), 120.] (cf. Encyclopedia of Religions, s.v. “Phallus.” )