Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light

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A provocative argument for a mystical, rather than historical, understanding of Jesus, leading to a radical rebirth of Christianity in our time.

For forty years, scholar and religious commentator Tom Harpur has challenged church orthodoxy and guided thousands of readers on subjects as controversial as the true nature of Christ and life after death. Now, in his most radical and groundbreaking work, Harpur digs deep into the origins of ...

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The Pagan Christ: Is Blind Faith Killing Christianity?

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A provocative argument for a mystical, rather than historical, understanding of Jesus, leading to a radical rebirth of Christianity in our time.

For forty years, scholar and religious commentator Tom Harpur has challenged church orthodoxy and guided thousands of readers on subjects as controversial as the true nature of Christ and life after death. Now, in his most radical and groundbreaking work, Harpur digs deep into the origins of Christianity.

Long before the advent of Jesus Christ, the Egyptians and other peoples believed in the coming of a messiah, a virgin birth, a madonna and her child, and the incarnation of the spirit in flesh. While the early Christian church accepted these ancient truths as the very basis of Christianity, it disavowed their origins. What had begun as a universal belief system built on myth and allegory was transformed, by the third and fourth centuries A.D., into a ritualistic institution based on a literal interpretation of myths and symbols. But, as Tom Harpur argues in The Pagan Christ, "to take the Gospels literally as history or biography is to utterly miss their inner spiritual meaning."

At a time of religious extremism, Tom Harpur reveals the virtue of a cosmic faith based on ancient truths that the modern church has renounced. His message is clear: Our blind faith in literalism is killing Christianity. Only with a return to an inclusive religion where Christ lives within each of us will we gain a true understanding of who we are and who we are intended to become. The Pagan Christ is a book of rare insight and power that will reilluminate the Bible and change the way we think about religion.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Harpur (religion editor, Toronto Star; For Christ's Sake) has a simple yet challenging thesis: Jesus did not exist. He argues that what was originally meant to be taken spiritually and allegorically was, by the third century, taken literally. A former Anglican priest and former believer in the historical Jesus, Harpur now proposes that religion has an important spiritual meaning, one that was recognized by the Egyptians, and that Egyptian allegory was taken over by Christians and made historical in the character of Jesus. Harpur shows the many correspondences between Christian teaching and Egyptian teaching but tends to go a bit overboard in his interpretations, saying, for example, that "the evidence seems incontestable that the twelve disciples represent twelve deific powers, and not men." He also claims that the Egyptian pictograph representing unharmed wellness and unity was gradually transformed into the Rx symbol for prescriptions, although some argue that it comes from the Latin word recipe ("to take"). For all its faults, Harpur's book is intriguing, and it will be popular among those who question received dogma. For larger religion collections.-Augustine J. Curley, Newark Abbey, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802714497
  • Publisher: Walker & Company
  • Publication date: 3/1/2005
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.16 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom Harpur is a former Anglican priest and professor of Greek and New Testament at the University of Toronto. He is an internationally renowned writer on religious and ethical issues, and the author of nine books, including For Christ's Sake and Life After Death.

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Table of Contents

Author's Note viii
Acknowledgments ix
1 Discovery: A Bible Story I'd Never Heard Before 1
2 Setting the Stage: Myths Aren't Fairy Tales 15
3 Christianity before Christianity: Where It All Began 27
4 The Greatest Cover-up of All Time: How a Spiritual Christianity Became a Literalist Christianism 49
5 It Was All Written Before-in Egypt
Part I Ancient Egyptian Religion 67
Part II Horus and Jesus Are the Same 77
6 Convincing the Sceptics 91
7 The Bible-History or Myth? The End of Fundamentalism 115
8 Seeing the Gospels with New Eyes: Sublime Myth Is Not Biography 137
9 Was There a Jesus of History? 157
10 The Only Way Ahead: Cosmic Christianity 177
Epilogue 195
Appendix A Background on Three Experts on Mythology, Religion, and Ancient Egypt 199
Appendix B More Similarities between the Egyptian Christ, Horus, and Jesus 205
Appendix C Two Strange Passages 211
Glossary 215
Notes 219
Bibliography 229
Index 237
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2007

    A reviewer

    The central claim of Tom Harpur¿s The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light is that the events described in the New Testament never actually happened, but are merely a variant of ancient Egyptian mystery religions. In fact, Harpur claims that each and every Christian belief has its roots in Egyptian myth. Harpur¿s goal, he says, in insisting that Christianity and the existence of Jesus were never intended to be understood as literal history is not to undermine, or discredit Christianity, but to provide ¿a fresh understanding of religion in general and Christianity in particular¿(8). He argues that to take the Gospels literally as history or biography is to utterly miss their spiritual meaning. By the final chapter, it¿s clear that the ¿Christianity¿ that Harpur argues for is hardly recognizable as anything deserving of the name. The ¿cosmic spirituality¿ that Harpur calls for is a quasi-Gnostic mix of new age inclusivism and religionsgeschichte parallelism along the lines of Frazer and Campbell. What the reader finds is a resurrection of tired arguments from the 19th and early 20th centuries, and a poorly crafted argument full of anti-¿fundamentalist¿ rantings, logical fallacies, unconventional (if not downright dishonest) scholarship, and plain falsities. The Pagan Christ relies heavily on the writings of Gerald Massey and Alvin Boyd Kuhn, two early 20th Century ¿scholars¿ of modest account, whose works were never really recognized in their day, and who were by no means considered giants in the field of Egyptology. The primary ¿proof¿ of Christianity¿s Egyptian origins that Harpur presents is merely a re-working of Massey¿s ¿discovery¿ of ¿nearly two hundred instances of immediate correspondences between the mythical Egyptian material and the allegedly historical Christian writings about Jesus¿(85). For Massey and Harpur, Horace ¿indeed was the archetypal Pagan Christ.¿ While there¿s no room here to address the many alleged parallels between Jesus and Horace in detail, the fact is that though the field is rife with pagan copycat claims, there is simply no evidence in the original Egyptian literature that backs them up. That there are some parallels between the mystery religions and Christianity has been recognized since the early centuries of the Church. However, by no means does it follow that Christianity therefore has it¿s origins in the mysteries. By relying upon a popular readership¿s unfamiliarity with the subject and by reading distinctly Christian terminology back into the Egyptian myths, Harpur (following Massey¿s lead) makes out any similarities between Horace and Jesus much greater than they truly are. There are several reasons why Harpur¿s parallel legend/myth approach to Christianity simply doesn¿t work. First of all, when Christianity came to town, the mystery religions simply changed their tune. No ¿resurrection¿ story, for example, in any mystery tradition pre-dates Christianity. The earliest resurrection account in any source material is that of Adonis, from the 2nd century A.D., after the Christian account was well established. Incidentally, what Harpur claims is a resurrection in the Isis/Osiris/Horus myth is in no way comparable to the gospel account of Jesus¿ resurrection. Secondly, Egyptian mystery religions would have enjoyed virtually no influence in 1st and 2nd Palestine due to Israel¿s staunchly monotheistic bent. The unwavering monotheism of early Palestine would surely have served to buffer any pagan influence. Perhaps the most important distinction to make is that this Harpur¿s approach compares Jesus to the non-historical figure Horus. Harpur¿s most irresponsible claim (and there are many) is that the Jesus of the Gospels most certainly did not exist, and what¿s more, that early Christian authors (i.e. Paul and the Gospel writers) never really believed that he did. Even controversial scholars such as J.D. Crossan of the Jesus Seminar, no friend to orthodox Christianit

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2005

    Pagan Christ

    In his tenth book, The Pagan Christ, former Anglican priest and religious scholar, Tom Harpur, investigates the shadowy and distorted history of the Christian world in an attempt to illuminate what really lies at the heart of Christian belief. He presents a new image of Christian faith that begins with the assertion that Jesus of Nazareth was not born to a virgin, did not perform miracles, and did not die on the cross only to rise again in three days. The flesh and blood Jesus never really lived. The historical veracity of the person of Jesus Christ is integral to the doctrine of every established Christian church. It is only by God becoming man, and dying that human beings can be forgiven of our sins, and our souls be saved. If Jesus never existed then it is all bunk. Harpur, however, argues that it is only by recognizing the metaphorical and ahistorical nature of the Jesus myths that one can understand what the Bible is all about. The Pagan Christ was inspired by the work of three Egyptologists, most significantly Alvin Boyd Kuhn (1880-1963). After the Rosetta Stone was used to decipher the meaning of Egyptian hieroglyphics these scholars argued that before Jesus was Jesus he was the Egyptian god Horus. Harpur draws out the likenesses between the images, characters, and events in the lives of Jesus and Horus. His argument for the mythological origins of Jesus is a strong blow to belief in a historical Jesus. He also examines the history of Christian thought to show that our contemporary ideas of Christianity were arrived at through editing, censorship, and accusations of heresy that were aimed at the expansion of Church control. In the midst of this theological chaos what then is the true meaning of the Christ story? According to Harpur the story of Jesus is the story of the human soul that the god-man is not a historical person, but the true nature of all beings. I do not appreciate overblown spiritual jibber-jabber, and the direct simplicity of this message was welcome. The information that Harpur presents is powerful, and the new vision of Christianity that he offers has the potential to speak deeply to those who are disillusioned by the closed mindedness, believe-this-or-see-you-in-hell nature of mainstream Christianity. He can be repetitive, and sometimes seems to only be skimming the surface. He aims for accessibility, but he could still afford to raise the intellectual standard without the risk of alienating any readers. He writes with enthusiasm, but he comes too close to an evangelical zeal that gives me the willies, because it is precisely the kind of thing that has kept people like myself out of church since the age of twelve. These are elements of Harpur¿s book that are not to my taste, but the historical and textual analysis of the Bible in The Pagan Christ is still an exciting new vision of the world¿s most influential figure of the past two thousand years.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2005

    Life Changing Book

    This book is a must read for all Christians and an aide to help them find their personal Christ.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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