Topics are arranged alphabetically in the INDEX.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

C.S. Lewis on "Pagan Christs"


Dr. Alice C. Linsley

In his book Reflections on the Psalms, C. S. Lewis explores various themes such a judgement, death, and praising God. In Chapter Ten, titled "Second Meanings", he writes about how Christians have believed the Psalms to "contain a second or hidden meaning, an 'allegorical' sense, concerned with the central truths of Christianity, with the Incarnation, the Passion, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and with the Redemption of Man. All the Old Testament has been treated in the same way. The full significance of what the writers are saying is, on this view, apparent only in the light of events which happened after they were dead."

This appraisal of how the Psalms have been interpreted in the Church is accurate, especially in regard to the Church Fathers who often allegorize Bible passages when speaking of Jesus Christ. Allegory and typology are also evident in the hermeneutics of Eastern Orthodoxy. Bible scholars of the twentieth century have been critical of this method of interpretation and have urged readers not to read New Testament views back into the Old Testament texts.

Lewis does not endorse allegorizing or the imposition of Christian beliefs upon the Psalms. He expresses his belief that the Hebrew Psalmists were not aware of the "full significance" of their writings.

Christianity holds that the Godhead is fully revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. One can affirm that without embracing the assumption that the writers of the Psalms did not grasp the pattern of the Gospel. They certainly did.

The early Hebrew believed in God Father, God Son, and the living-giving Spirit. They believed that the Father and Son are one. In John 14, Jesus explains to Phillip, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father." The Father-Son relationship is expressed in the son's recognition of his Father in others. Horus was said to recognize his father in the deceased king. "Horus is a soul and he recognizes his Father in you..." (Pyramid Texts, Utterance 423)

In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, Horus is called the "advocate of his father" (cf. 1 John 2:1). They believed that the Son of God would be born of a woman of their ruler-priest caste and that he would crush the serpent's head (Gen. 3:15). This early Hebrew expectation was expressed in the Pyramid Texts, (Utterance 388) dating to B.C. 2200: "Horus has shattered (tbb, crushed) the mouth of the serpent with the sole of his foot (tbw)."

They believed that the Woman would conceive by divine overshadowing, as the Angel declared to the Virgin Mary in Luke 1:35: "the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."

They hoped for a Righteous Ruler who would overcome death and lead His people to eternal life. Jesus descended to Sheol to announce his victory over death. A Horite song found at the royal complex at Ugarit speaks of the descent of Horus, the son of God, to the place of the dead "to announce good tidings."

Why must we assume that the significance of what the Psalmists wrote is apparent only in the light of events which happened after they were dead? These were Hebrew writers, and the Hebrew writers had a better grasp of the pattern of the Gospel than many Christians do today.

Many have noted the parallels between the ancient Horus myth and the story of Jesus, yet strangely, Lewis does not refer to the myth of the Horite and Sethite Hebrew. Instead, he speaks of "Pagan Christs" and notes resemblances to narratives of Adonis and Balder. He asks, "What are we to say of those gods in various Pagan mythologies who are killed and rise again and who thereby renew or transform the life of their worshippers or of nature?"

The late Joseph Campbell, the most notable mythologist of the twentieth century, would explain this "hero's journey" as an aspect of the great "monomyth", a universal narrative archetype. Campbell does not offer a detailed explanation for how this emerges universally, but he suggests that it is deeply rooted in Mankind's collective unconscious (Campbell, The Hero's Journey, p. 57).

This might explain why the resemblance between Pagan heroes and Jesus Christ are not accidental. However, Lewis explores other explanations. He speaks of anthropologists who might argue that such commonalities come from the experiences and imaginations of primitive and superstitious peoples.

Not so, say the early Church Fathers. They believed that such Pagan myths are intended to mislead people; that these are counterfeit narratives that parody the truth of the Gospel. 

Lewis, a professor of Classical and Medieval literature, believed that the divine and the diabolical play a part along with the human imagination (p. 123). He does not believe that the resemblances between the Christ event and the overcoming Pagan heroes is accidental. He writes, "The resemblance between these myths and the Christian truth is no more accidental than the resemblance between the sun and the sun's reflection in a pond, or that between a historical fact and the somewhat garbled version of it which lives in popular report..."

Another explanation is that the Pagan distortions are distilled from the primitive myth of Re, Horus, and Hathor which spread throughout the lands where the early Hebrew had dispersed in the service of the first lords of the earth, the great kingdom builders like Nimrod, the Kushite (Gen. 10).

In ancient Egyptian, Re means "Father". The Greek "Horus" comes from the ancient Egyptian HR, meaning "Most High One" or "Hidden One". Horus' mother is Hathor who always is shown overshadowed by the Sun in ancient Nilotic iconography.

Lewis speaks of how the Romans viewed the age or reign of Saturn as something equivalent to the Garden of Eden before the Fall (p. 117). Among the Horite and Sethite Hebrew, Saturn was called "Horus, Bull of the Sky." Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn were depicted with the falcon-head of Horus (Krupp 1979). According to the Pyramid Texts (Utterance 205), the Great Bull smites the enemies of his father Re.

According to the Coffin Texts, Horus is "the great Falcon upon the ramparts of the house of him of the hidden name" and he says: "my wrath will be turned against the enemy of my father" and "I will put him beneath my feet." (Utterance 148) This text is at least 800 years older than the Messianic reference of Psalm 110:1: The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

The Bull is to be sacrificed so that the deceased king may eat the sacrifice and become one with the Celestial Bull. The king is urged to rise, to "gather his bones together, shake off your dust" and enter into immortality.

Given what is known today about the biblical Hebrew, a ruler-priest caste whose point of origin was the Nile Valley, we must make a distinction between the belief that the Godhead is fully revealed in Jesus Christ, and the chronological snobbery of believing that only after His appearing can the Gospel be understood. These are two distinct assertions.

C. S. Lewis cannot be accused of chronological snobbery, which he despised. Nor should we find fault in his failure to compare the Gospel and the Hebrew beliefs concerning the Son of God. Lewis' book Reflections on the Psalms was published in 1958, eleven years before the publication of R. O. Faulkner's English translation of The Ancient Pyramid Texts. The Pyramid Texts present many of the prayers that were offered at the royal tombs and are evidence that the Hebrew hope for resurrection was connected to their belief in the Son of God. Their prayers were written on the walls of the tombs and can be studied today.

Related reading: Signs Given That We Might Believe; Jesus Christ in the Hebrew Scriptures; Abraham's Faith Lives in Christianity; The Hebrew Were a Caste; Early Resurrection Texts, Horite and Sethite Mounds

No comments:

Post a Comment