I had heard about it for years and decided to research the claim for myself. What is the ‘it’? That Christianity had borrowed or stolen some of its major doctrines from ancient Egyptian literature and/or from the ‘mystery religions’ and that there were dying and rising saviours/gods before Jesus.
As I said in my book Revelations on Ras Tafari, [and urged in a recorded public lecture in Kingston in 2003, with invited UWI academics Drs. Tunde Bewaji and Clinton Hutton as live respondents, to whom I had sent my lecture script, weeks before the lecture]:
“There is a popular view, drawn from George James’ book Stolen Legacy: Greek Philosophy is Stolen Egyptian Philosophy, that there was an Egyptian Mystery System, Masonic to the core—involving worship centres and schools—which was the well-spring of Greek mystery religions. James cites the 1909 book The Ancient Mysteries and Modern Masonry, written by a thirty-second degree Mason, the Rev. Charles H. Vail as his principal source for ideas concerning the Egyptian Mystery System.
It now appears that James was led astray by Vail, who misunderstood his prime source, Plutarch’s On Isis and Osiris. Apart from this misreading of Plutarch by Vail, nothing that Vail wrote in 1909 about Egyptian documents would have much credence since it was unlikely, though not impossible, that Vail could read any Egyptian script or had access to translations so soon after the 1822 translation of the Rosetta Stone, the key to understanding Egyptian hieroglyphic and demotic scripts.”
I concluded thus:
1. “Jesus’ death was an actual event in history. The death of the god described in the pagan cults is a mythical drama with no historical ties; its continued rehearsal celebrates the recurring death and rebirth of nature. The incontestable fact that the early church believed that its proclamation of Jesus’ death and resurrection was grounded upon what actually happened in history makes absurd any attempt to derive this belief from the mythical, nonhistorical stories of the pagan cults.
2. Jesus’ death is voluntary and for others, to deal with sin, whereas death overtakes the gods of the mysteries and none dies a substitutionary death.”
(See Revelations, 81-83)
The late Ian Boyne, moderator at the lecture, after hearing the responses from the UWI scholars, muttered to me privately: “Clinton, the men have not dealt with the major planks of your lecture.”
The lecture on 2 CDs titled Afrocentricism & Black Consciousness: Challenges for Christianity? is available by calling 876-521-5052.
Afrocentrists at the University of the West Indies and elsewhere need to protect their intellectual credibility by reading carefully and analyzing critically the sources behind and the content within books like George James’ Stolen Legacy, James Frazer’s The Golden Bough and the numerous offshoots.
Jesus’ death and resurrection are at once historical and unique in all of ancient literature. There was really, in history, no other dying and rising God or Saviour.
Let us deal with and not dodge the implications. Read and think critically, always!
Rev. Clinton Chisholm former lecturer in Greek at JTS and CGST, is author of the recent book A Controversial Clergyman: Provocative Newspaper Articles to Foster Critical Thinking…