Friday, January 14, 2011

On Nimrod and Christmas Trees - part II

In the previous post in this series, we saw how a "historian", who is heavily relied on for all claims of Nimrod and Christmas trees, really did not understand coins from Tyre or Greek mythology. To try and understand what this person's line of reasoning, we went on a wild goose chase that ended with Cybele and Attis specifically. We found a pine tree, but the details surrounding it bore no resemblance to the Christmas tree whatsoever. We were promised proof against Christmas trees. Rather, we see the syncretism held by Alexander Hislop and Herbert Armstrong was grossly erroneous.

One of our goals was not completed, however. Alexander Hislop said the image of a snake wrapped around a tree stump was a god killed and chopped into pieces. We never found what god he thought that was. If we continue searching, I wonder what we will find. Will Hislop be justified, at least in part, or will we see he was even farther off target than we understood?

This time I would like to turn our attention to the Egyptian gods. Mainly Horus, Isis, and Osiris.


Let’s get something straight here before we begin.

Just like with Cybele and Attis, there are many versions of these Egyptian myths. 
These base myths are exceedingly old. The oldest religious documents in the world are the Pyramid Texts, dated to around 2300 BC, and there we see the names and details of the great Egyptian gods obviously already well-developed.

The mythical stories have been through much iteration. Versions of a myth from one area differed from versions in another. They were lost in war, they were merged together into new versions, they were changed in denominational feuding, they were rewritten for political expediency, they changed in response to Hellenization, and again in response to the popularity of Christ.

Take Horus for example. 
Horus is one of the most ancient of Egyptian gods. Horus begins as the sky with the sun as his right eye and the moon as his left eye. Horus is a falcon. There is a different Horus for just about every locality where Horus was worshipped. Multiple Horuses were mentioned just in the Pyramid Texts. Then there is Horus the Elder and Horus the Younger. Horus is king of Lower Egypt, then the king over all Egypt, then a representation of all Pharaohs. Horus is an amalgam of many gods. At one time he is Re’s son, at another time he is merged with Re, at another time Osiris’ son, at another time Osiris’ brother, at another time an incarnation of Osiris, at another time created as a thought by Ptah - and so forth and so on.

How can Hislop or Armstrong possibly say, “such and such was always true since the time of Nimrod”? They cannot. What’s more, if the pyramid texts don’t predate Nimrod, then the myths they tell absolutely do. So the basis of the entire story, that Semiramis made it all up, is simply not possible.
But I digress. 
See Sir Ernest Budge’s book “The Gods of the Egyptians”, especially chapter XV “The Horus Gods”, for more. I also found “Theology of Memphis” by Wim van den Dungen somewhat interesting. 


On page 98 of Alexander Hislop’s book we have a vague reference to the Egyptian gods Osiris and Horus.
…it must be remembered that the divine child born at the winter solstice was born as a new incarnation of the great god (after that god had been cut in pieces), on purpose to revenge his death upon his murders. Now the great god, cut off in the midst of his power and glory, was symbolized as a huge tree, stripped of all its branches, and cut down almost to the ground.
-Alexander Hislop, “The Two Babylons”, 1858, p.98
The god who was cut in pieces can only be Osiris, and the divine child born as a new incarnation can only mean one of the more recent versions of Horus. We can confidently say this because these features are known to be in the stories of these two gods. 
It's the other details that are wrong.

First, I want to point out some subtle manipulation going on here. Hislop uses the phrase "the great god". Osiris was not the great god of the Egyptian pantheon. He was a big name, but not the great god. That might fit Ra or Ptah, but not Osiris. Hislop has an agenda to push, that being to make everything into Nimrod, so he puts the phrase the great god in there as a subtle nudge to help people along who otherwise do not know anything about this kind of topic.
I for one do not appreciate this. It's manipulative. It's misleading.

Next, Hislop makes two claims that interest us. There is a winter solstice birth, and a tree.
Let’s start with the tree.  


Any good text about ancient Egypt will mention Plutarch and his book “Moralia”. I will summarize since we’re only interested in the tree anyway.

Isis was Osiris’ sister. They fell in love. Their evil brother, Set, was jealous, so he locked Osiris in a box and threw him in the Nile. The box washed up in Byblos (Phoenicia) and a large clump of heather (some translations say an Erica tree) grew around it. The king of the land cut the heather down and made it into a pillar in his palace. Isis found it, but so did Set. Set cut Osiris’ dead body into fourteen pieces and hid them. Isis found all but one piece. Since the pieces were not all found, Osiris had to remain in the land of the dead, thus he became the god of the underworld. A tree was then used as a symbol of this event.

Certain of these details are ancient, but certain details are not. 
For example the Pyramid Texts mention Osiris being drowned by Set and floated down the Nile. Osiris was the Nile god anciently. He represented the Nile, its flooding, the life in the soil, and the vegetation that grew from it. Isis also represents the land that is nourished by the Nile and the vegetation that grows from it. It makes odd sense that Osiris would drown and float out to sea and be cut into pieces (like the Nile Delta), only to return later, and Isis would be his wife, searching for him, and being impregnated by him.

On the other hand, James Henry Breasted, in his book “Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt” pages 25-28, says there is no record in Egypt of Set putting Osiris in a box. 

What's more, I find no mention of the clump of Heather or an Erica tree anywhere else outside of Plutarch that I’ve looked. Ancient texts have Osiris floating dead across the sea to the Land of the Cedar (Phoenicia), but his body is found, embalmed, taken back to Egypt for burial, and a Sycamore tree grows up.

Hislop says the tree is a palm. Armstrong says the tree is an evergreen. Most of Plutarch’s translators I have read say the tree was heather. Heather can be a great number of shrubs or trees, none of which are evergreen. I found a few that translate it as an Erica tree. Erica is an evergreen, but it is a flowering tree and not a pine at all. Others claim it was a Tamarisk tree. Again, an evergreen, but it is a flowering tree and not a pine. WikiPedia has Cypress tree. Yet again, an evergreen, but yet again not a pine.

Hard to find sources outside of Plutarch? Not a pine - probably not even an evergreen? Made into a pillar? Symbol of a god’s death? Not exactly what one would expect as “the real origin of the Christmas tree.”

What then of the solstice birth?


The ancient Egyptian calendars are an incredibly complex topic due to the exceeding age of Egypt. There were numerous changes over time. There are debates to this day among historians as to major details of the Egyptian calendar. Still, I will do my best to explain.

From what I can gather, Egypt had a 365 day year, which they divided into three four-month seasons (not four seasons like the Temperate Zones are used to), with twelve thirty-day months. Their three seasons were tied to the flooding of the Nile and the crop cycle. It was an inaccurate calendar that was apparently reset each year at their New Year. But they had an odd twist that we should know about which I will summarize.

You might have caught the part just now where twelve months with thirty days each does not add up to 365.
According to Plutarch, Egypt anciently had a 360 day year. Re, the chief god, forbade Nut from having children on any day of the year. Nut went to Thoth and asked for help. Thoth gambled with the moon and won her light. Thoth then used that light to create 5 additional days (the ‘heriu renpet’.) The calendar was now 365 days long, and Nut was free to have children on those additional days.
The birthday of Osiris was on the first of those days, Horus on the second day, Set on the third, Isis on the fourth, and Nepthys on the fifth.
Got that? There are five special days each year where the above-mentioned gods were born.

Please allow me to remind you that Hislop tells us, “it must be remembered that the divine child [Horus] born at the winter solstice,” (The Two Babylons p.98) and HWA tells us, In Egypt, it was always believed that the son of Isis [Horus] … was born December 25th” (Plain Truth About Christmas p. 13.)
I remind you of that because there are some serious problems you need to be aware of.

Those claims are bold!
December is a Roman month, not an Egyptian one (or a Babylonian one). The ancient Egyptians wouldn’t know what a December is!
Herbert Armstrong's claims are, at least partially, contradicted in other material put out by his own church. See our article Nimrod's Birthday Was January 6? for more.
Also, the Egyptian calendar follows the Nile flooding so it can’t be exactly matched to any other civilization's calendar that we can say, “such and such Egyptian festival was always on December 25.” The very notion is laughable. Consider the debate among the historians who can’t even agree on exactly when the Egyptian New Years was! If this is so debatable, there is no possibility that we can say, “such and such festival was always on December 25.”
And I haven't even mentioned the issues with the ancient Roman calendar.

But am I being too technical?

Fine, then. Do a Google search for “Horus born on solstice”. What do you find? Page after page of websites from people who have watched Zeitgeist, perhaps even know who Gerald Massey or Alvin Kuhn are, and zealously believe that Jesus is Horus. These are the sites that will tell you Horus was born on December 25. I prefer Roger Pearse's response to that.

Now am I being too simplistic?
We need to know when these five days are!

In reality these 5 additional days fell between the end of the old year and the New Year. A modern mind might conclude "winter." But not so fast!

When were these days? 
As I mentioned, there’s a little confusion about this because the Egyptian calendar doesn’t equate to our calendar nicely, so whatever I say here is but a very rough estimate. As best I can determine from checking a great deal of sources, these five days were in late June or July.

What does this mean? 
It means that Osiris and Horus were not considered born in December at all, but on the opposite side of the year. They weren't born in winter but in summer. Not according to the solstice but according to the star Sirius. Thus ends any possibility that Hislop or Armstrong were correct. Ouch!


Finding these two were so wrong about Osiris' birth makes me curious about his death.

According to Plutarch, Osiris died in the month of Athyr. Athyr is the third month and falls most likely in October.
Lists of Egyptian festivals mention Sokar, which is a somber, six-day festival remembering Osiris’ death. Sokar was the last six days of the month of Koiak. Koiak is the fourth month and falls most likely in late October or early November. 
Got that? Athyr is the third month, falls in October; Koiak is the fourth month, falls in October-November.

What does that mean?
That means that neither Osiris’ birth nor death were in December at all!

Why does that matter?
Remember the very first quote at the top of this post, Hislop mentions Horus' birth and Osiris' death. It's the death of Osiris where the tree comes into play. Osiris' death and the tree are inseparably linked. Much like when we learned the Attis tree was a spring funeral tree, the Osiris tree is a fall funeral tree. Neither are in Winter. Both are related to death.
I wanted to make sure all the loose ends were tied up. The death of Osiris is no help to Hislop's dead theory.

Again and again we see this vaunted historian, Alexander Hislop, didn't know history. How can anyone be an authority on a topic they don't know? This takes the term "fake it 'til you make it" to a new level.

Here are some links for source info:
The Egyptian Calendar System at Minnesota State.
Ancient Egyptian Calendars at AncientEgyptOnline.
Ancient Egyptian Festival Calendar at AncientEgyptOnline.


What have we learned today? 

We’ve learned that Osiris and Horus’ birthdays were in summer, Osiris died in the fall, the Egyptian calendar was a mess, their myths were constantly changing, their calendar doesn't tie into the Roman calendar nicely at all, nothing was “always on December 25,” few things were “always true since the time of Nimrod,” and some of these things Nimrod or Semiramis supposedly invented actually predated them.

I highly recommend you read “The Babylon Connection” by Ralph Woodrow for more on this whole Nimrod/Semiramis thing.

What I think is most important is this: none of this resembles the Christmas tree.
We looked for a Christmas tree and found a clump of heather holding up a palace, or perhaps a sycamore. I can’t determine for certain what kind of tree it was, but, then again, Hislop and Armstrong couldn’t agree about it either. (More about that next time!) The tree is a death-related autumn tree not a birth-related winter tree.

In short, we have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Hislop and Armstrong are in error. I’d say overall this has been a very productive study!

In the next and hopefully last post in this series, I would like to do one last bit of textual criticism on Hislop and Armstrong’s writings.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11


Anonymous said...

I think horus the younger was osiris' ans isis' child. The sowing took place in december.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that hislop could have had harpocrates in mind when he mentioned the "divine child?" There is horus the elder (osiris' brother) and harpocrates (osiris' lame son) so hislop could have had such a thing in mind. Just a thought.


xHWA said...

Very difficult to say.
But my guess is no.

Harpocrates was a Hellenistic Greek creation. They took Horus and made him into a Greek thing.

Hislop never mentions Harpocrates directly, that I can recall.

Hislop was focusing on (inaccurate versions of) Horus and Osirus. I do believe he was actually speaking of Horus.

But, then again, what Hislop did was he took almost everything and said it was Nimrod or Semiramis, so there's a possibility.

Unknown said...

Great posts. What about the Catholic encyclopedia admitting that they adopted a pagan holiday for Christmas? Sincerely asking. Deuteronomy 12:30-31

xHWA said...

Greetings, blessings, and thanks for reading. Would you mind posting what article you are referring to?

I am unaware of the Catholic Encyclopedia admitting that the day was adopted from a pagan holiday. The Catholic Encyclopedia that I read never makes that claim. The closest they get is to say that the many pagan festivals at that time of year may have helped the early Christians to settle on the December 25th date. But that does not mesh with what I have seen.

Here is a link to the online Catholic Encyclopedia article on Christmas at

It is possible that you have gotten an older copy of the Catholic Encyclopedia. Never trust older encyclopedias - they have outdated information in them. Even older Catholic Encyclopedias relied on research from people who were popular in their time, such as Franz Cumont for example. How could they do otherwise? However, there are so very many examples where a particular thing is accepted across the board only to be later overturned completely as new information comes to light. The work of many earlier religious historians, and especially that of religious historians in the mid-1800's to mid-1900's, has been practically abandoned. Almost all of the conclusions of the German History of Religions School has been abandoned, and it was this very school that started the whole "everything is pagan" movement. If you are reading an encyclopedia, or an article that quotes an encyclopedia from before let's say 1970, then you are reading terribly outdated information.

I am aware that the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1952) is an example of such an outdated encyclopedia. We deal with this in our article "Christmas FAQ."