Fact-checking Zeitgeist: The Movie
Link to Zeitgeist movie is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJSpujHhaGQ
Link to Study companion is here: http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/Zeitgeist,%20The%20Movie-%20Companion%20Guide%20PDF.pdf
An atheist friend of mine sent me a link to this movie saying, “This disproves religion.” I was surprised I hadn’t heard of it. I watched it and was fascinated by all of the connections the maker found in many of the different religions and in astrology that seemed to show that all religions are really just based off ancient stories that have slight variations but follow that same claims and how they are based in astrology and sun worship.
I told my atheist friend that it made a very compelling case and wanting to do some research to verify the sources and see if there was any explanation for them. So, I decided to download the study guide companion to find the exact sources the video was using and to see the claims used and how they all fit together. What I want to do in this response is state the claims in the video, add the most pertinent explanations in the study guide and explore the veracity of these claims and why these links are genuine, misleading or false. Basically, we are going to fact-check the movie. I won’t be dealing with the 9/11 or world bank parts of this film but will just be looking at the part about religion.
Claim 1: As far back as 10,000 B.C., history is abundant with carvings and writings reflecting people’s respect and adoration for (the Sun).
Study Companion: Numerous artifacts prove these points, such as from the sun-worshipping cultures of the Egyptians, Indians, Babylonians and Greeks, among many others, including the peoples of the Levant and ancient Israel.
Examination: While there were certainly carvings and paintings of the Sun going as far back as 10,000 B.C. (or even earlier) which the Study companion sites examples like Lascaux paintings (around 15,000 B.C.), there is no evidence that they had anything to do with Sun worship. The earliest Sun deities came about much later. Ra (Egyptian) started as early as 2900 B.C. during the Second Dynasty of Egypt. Utu (Mesopotamian) dates back as early as 3500 B.C.Surya (Hinduism) can be found in the Rigveda which at the earliest can be dated back to 2000 B.C. Dyeus (Proto-Indo-European) is probably derived from the same Rigveda text mentioned above.
Conclusion: Misleading or not proven.
Claim 2: (The Zodiac) reflects the sun as it figuratively passes through the 12 major constellations over the course of a year. It also reflects the 12 months of the year, the four seasons, and the solstices and equinoxes. The term Zodiac relates to the fact that constellations were anthropomorphised, or personified, as figures, or animals.
Study Companion: (No relevant information to the claim above)
Examination: The claim is completely true. Zodiac derives from Ancient Greek ‘zoidiakos kyklos’ meaning a cycle of little animals.
Claim 3: From the ancient hieroglyphics in Egypt, we know much about (Horus) this solar messiah. For instance, Horus, being the sun, or the light, had an enemy known as Set, and Set was the personification of the darkness or night. And, metaphorically speaking, every morning Horus would win the battle against Set—while in the evening, Set would conquer Horus and send him into the underworld. It is important to note that “dark vs. light” or “good vs. evil” is one of the most ubiquitous mythological dualities ever known and is still expressed on many levels to this day.
Study Companion: Like his father, Osiris, battling Set/Seth on a nightly basis, so too does Horus fight Seth…
Examination: Horus is also not the only Sun God and even further isn’t the main Sun God. Horus is primarily the Sky God and is only associated with the Sun because he is seen as carrying the Sun, but he is also associated with the moon as well. The Main Sun God in Egypt was Ra (or Re).
Set is not the personification of darkness. The Egyptian God of darkness was Kek (or Kuk). There is also no evidence that Set and Horus would fight each other every day, and Horus would win in the morning and Set would win in the evening. The two main accounts of their conflict either have Horus constantly winningor the fight being between their followers in a great battle. There are also no references in the Study guide to Set being the God of Darkness or these “day vs night” battles.
Conclusion: Mostly False.
Claim 4: Horus was born on December 25 of the Virgin Isis-Meri.
Study Companion: Obviously, the English term ―December 25th did not exist in the ancient Egyptian calendar but simply refers to the winter solstice, which the ancients perceived as beginning on December 21st and ending at midnight on the 24th…
The virginity of Horus‘s mother, Isis, has been disputed…
Examination: It seems that even the Study Companion sees these claims as a stretch, but let’s go into depth about these claims.
The Egyptian Calendar has a 365 day year with three seasons being the Flood season, the Emergence season and the Harvest Season. The ancient Egyptians never had a winter season, and this idea of the winter solstice was a European projection onto the Egyptian culture. Here the Study Companion offers two sources for the winter solstice theory of the birth of Horus being Plutarch and Macrobius (which were both written after Christ’s birth). This begs the question; how could Horus be born during the winter solstice when the winter solstice was a foreign concept to the ancient Egyptians? Now, there is an argument to be made that the Egyptians did know about the solstice since the Karnak temple is built in such a way that the sun god’s shrine has light focused upon it during the winter solstice. This seems to line up well that this light would indicate on which day Horus was born. However, the sun god’s shrine isn’t to Horus but to Amun-Ra (or Amun-Re). Let’s say we give the makers all this ground and say that Horus was born during the winter solstice. It still doesn’t line up with December 25th.
What about Isis-Meri being a virgin? The Study companion all but confesses that Isis was not a virgin when she gave birth to Horus. It cites stories like Isis impregnating herself on a severed phallus, which is the most widely accepted tradition of how Isis became pregnant. Instead, it claims that Isis was known as the “Great Virgin”. However, Horus isn’t the only son of Isis. According to the Coffin Texts, the Four sons of Horus are offspring of Isis. The fertility god Min is also said to be the offspring of Isis. So, if she is seen as “The Great Virgin”, it’s meant in a completely different way than in the context of a Virgin Birth.
Conclusion: False, or stretching the truth.
Claim 5: Horus’s birth was accompanied by a star in the east, and upon his birth he was adored by three kings
Study Companion: the Three Kings are the stars in Orion‘s belt: Mintaka, Anilam and Alnitak. These stars, along with Sirius, are tied to the cycles of death and rebirth.
Examination: This claim seems to contradict their previous claim that Horus was born on December the 25th. They claim the birth of Horus was accompanied by the rising of the Star Sirius, yet the star Sirius appears during the Egyptian New Year in Summer. There is also no evidence that the Egyptians saw the stars on Orion’s belt as three kings. In fact, they associated them with the God Sah, which later became Osiris. The analogy used here just doesn’t work.
Conclusion: Analogy doesn’t work.
Claim 6: At the age of 12, (Horus) was a prodigal child teacher, and at the age of 30, he was baptised by a figure known as Anup and thus began his ministry.
Study Companion: The various phases of the sun‘s journey were given different personalities, while remaining one entity. Hence, Horus the Child wears the side lock until 12 noon when he becomes the adult Re.
Examination: The link made in the Study Companion with Horus at the 12th hour becoming Ra and Horus becoming a prodigal child teacher at 12 years old is a big stretch. Not only because Ra is a different god to Horus but that Ra isn’t even seen as a prodigal teacher. The only reference to these claims is Murdoch in the Study Companion and she gives no references for these claims.
The claim about being baptised at the age of 30 by Anup is intentionally misleading. Baptism didn’t exist in Ancient Egypt but was an exclusively Jewish/Christian practice. The source the Study Companion gives is Tertullian who doesn’t even mention baptism in the quote given. Tertullian mentions ritual washing which is not Baptism. The other source says that Horus purifies himself in the Lake of the Field of Rushes, which Murdoch then extrapolates to mean rebirth and thus baptism. However, there is no mention of rebirth in all the mythology surrounding Horus. Anup is an embalmer of the dead and can be hardly be described as baptising Horus, especially if that baptism is supposedly happening every morning in the lake of the Field of Rushes. The link that is tried to make to Anup baptising Horus is the ritualistic use of water to purify the dead, which again, is not baptism. There is also no reference in the Study Guide that Horus died when he was 30 or that the purification ritual at his death happened when Horus was 30.
Conclusion: Mostly False.
Claim 7: Horus had 12 disciples he travelled about with, performing miracles such as healing the sick and walking on water.
Study Companion: Again, these themes were not all rolled into one in this manner in an ancient text but are put together here in order to reconstruct the Horus myth, the same as mythographers do with modern encyclopedia entries. The motifs exist separately in a variety of texts, from which the creators of Christianity evidently drew for their narrative.
As in many other religions, the Egyptian gods and goddesses were known to produce miracles, including healing the sick, walking on water and raising the dead.
Examination: The Study Companion argues that because Horus was depicted with 12 other people that these people were thus his disciples. There is no evidence that these people were his disciples.
It does appear to be true that Horus was seen as providing cures and oracles by being linked to the Greek god Apollo. However, the Study Companion tries to link walking on water with having command over the water. There really is no direct parallel here.
Conclusion: Some Truth, but mostly misleading.
Claim 8: Horus was known by many gestural names such as The Truth, The Light, God’s Anointed Son, The Good Shepherd, The Lamb of God, and many others.
Study Companion: Many Egyptian gods and goddesses held sacred titles of one sort or another. For example, in chapter/spell 125 of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the deceased addresses Osiris as the Lord of Truth, and it is also easy to understand why solar gods would be deemed The Light. Following is a compilation of epithets taken from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, as applied to various deities, including Osiris, Isis, Horus, Re, Anubis, Thoth and Seb.
Examination: It does seem that Horus was dignified with many of these titles. However, some of these titles, like Lamb of God, are a stretch.
Conclusion: Mostly True.
Claim 9: After being “betrayed” by Typhon, Horus was “crucified,” buried for three days, and thus, resurrected.
Study Companion: The Typhon figure is also known as Set/Seth, the god of desert and darkness who betrays his brother, Osiris, and who is depicted in the Pyramid Texts as battling with Horus, who avenges his father. In later texts, Seth is said to have sent a snake or scorpion to sting and kill Horus, as on the Metternich Stela (c. 380-342 BCE) and other such cippi or magical stele.
The issue at hand is not a man being thrown to the ground and nailed to a cross, as Jesus is depicted to have been, but the portrayal of gods and goddesses in “cruciform,” whereby the divine figure appears with arms outstretched in a symbolic context.
In the myth, both Osiris and Horus die and are resurrected, with Horus becoming the risen Osiris.
Examination: Horus isn’t betrayed by Set, Set and Horus are never depicted as friends. Set and Horus are just trying to kill each other. There really is no ‘betrayal’ here.
The Study Guide also admits that Horus was never crucified since Crucifixion was a Roman invention. The idea of both Jesus and Horus being in Cruciform (depicted with arms outstretched) has nothing to do with Crucifixion, which is the original claim.
The Study guide gives no reference for Horus being buried for 3 days before being resurrected but points to his father, Osiris. The companion offers the explanation that their stories are interchangeable, but it doesn’t work with Osiris’s death. Osiris was cut into multiple pieces and buried all over Egypt, was reassembled by Isis except for the genitalia. So, Isis creates a phallus to impregnate herself with to give birth to Horus. This is clearly not a died, buried and resurrected story in the same way Christ’s was which is what the Study Companion is trying to do. The resurrection evidence given in the Study Companion seems to be one of the various stories about Golden Horus Osiris (when Horus gradually took on the nature of both the son of Osiris and Osiris himself). However, the story depicts his mother Isis bringing him back to life rather than resurrecting himself. I’d say that Horus being resurrected is debatable.
Conclusion: Mostly False, resurrection part is debatable.
Claim 10: Attis of Phrygia, born of the virgin Nana on December 25th, “crucified,” placed in a tomb and after three days, was resurrected.
Study Companion: As we can see, according to this scholar Attis is killed, fixed to a tree, and resurrects after three days, while his mother is regarded as a virgin goddess comparable to the Virgin Mary.
Examination: It seems there is a good case to be made that Nana was a virgin when giving birth to Attis with the story going she picked a ripened almond from a tree and it dissolved into her making her pregnant.
However, December 25 seems again to be connected to the winter solstice, which doesn’t line up with the Almond fertility story of Nana’s conception. Almonds are ripe between September and December and 9 months after September to December is between June and September. For Attis to be born on December 25, the almond would have been ripe in March, which is ridiculous because that’s just the start of Spring when almond trees would start flowering. It’s extremely unlikely that Attis was born during the Winter Solstice if the Nana almond story is accurate.
Again, Attis wasn’t crucified. There are many stories about the death of Attis, which the Study Companion mentions. These include being killed by a boar and castrating himself. On top of these stories mentioned there are other stories such as Cybele changing Attis into a firtree, died after trying to be restored by priests in vain, put to death by Maeon, among others. None of these mention Attis being crucified. The Study Companion again refers to Attis depicted in Cruciform which as we said is not crucifixion.
The evidence supplied by the Study Companion around the burial and resurrection of Attis seems to be adaptations that have come after the time of Jesus. So, while it’s true that he is said to have resurrected after being buried for 3 days. It’s use to point towards Christians copying this story is misleading.
Conclusion: Mixed, Some parts true, other parts false or misleading.
Claim 11: Krishna, of India, born of the virgin Devaki with a “star in the east” signalling his coming. He performed miracles with his disciples, and upon his death was resurrected.
Study Companion: Even though it is accepted that Krishna was another form of the Divine Vishnu, it is nevertheless argued that because Devaki had other children prior to the birth of Krishna, she was not a virgin.
Indeed, the notion of a divine birth is common in the ancient literature; although not always the same as virgin birth, it is very close, by definition.
Although it is not specifically termed a star in the east, in the Indian text the Bhagavata Purana (10.3:1), a constellation called Rohini or his stars is present at Krishna‘s birth.
Regarding the resurrection/ascension, the Mahabharata says that Krishna or Keshava, as he is also traditionally called, immediately returns to life after being killed and speaks only to the hunter, forgiving him of his actions.
Examination: Just by looking at the Study Companion, we can see that these claims about Krishna are a stretch. The companion admits that Devaki wasn’t a virgin because she had other children and instead says it was a “divine birth” which is just a term meaning the child being born was a god. There was no virgin birth. We also know it’s false because Krishna has a father called Vasudeva.
Again, the Study Companion admits that there was no star in the East at the birth of Krishna but says that the constellation known as “Rohini” is present at his birth. However, this is also misleading as Rohini was just Krishna’s star sign in Indian astrology and not like the Christian star in the east.
Yes, it seems Krishna was known for doing miracles.
The resurrection claim is a big stretch, and you can see that reading the study companion. The source cited by the Study Companion just says that after Krishna’s death, he comforted the hunter and then ascended upwards. There is nowhere that says that Krishna was physically resurrected and the claim that because Krishan comforted the Hunter that he must have been physically resurrected is a stretch.
Conclusion: Mostly False, Miracles true.
Claim 12: Dionysus of Greece, born of a virgin on December 25th, was a travelling teacher who performed miracles such as turning water into wine, he was referred to as the “King of Kings,” “God’s Only Begotten Son,” “The Alpha and Omega,” and many others, and upon his death, he was resurrected.
Study Companion: As with Jesus, December 25th and January 6th are both traditional birth dates related to Dionysus and simply represent the period of the winter solstice.
According to the most common tradition, Dionysus was the son of the god Zeus and the mortal woman Semele. In the Cretan version of the same story, which Diodorus Siculus follows, Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Persephone, the daughter of Demeter also called Kore, who, as we have seen, is styled a virgin goddess.
Dionysus‘s death and resurrection were well-known mythical motifs in antiquity.
Examination: It seems the consensus is that Dionysus was born sometime between the 5th and 7th of January. The 25th of December date seems to have come after the birth of Christ.
Dionysus was born twice, so saying he was born to a virgin would already be misleading since he was born from two different women. The first woman he was born from was Persephone which came from Zeus taking the shape of a snake and having sex with her. Persephone was the wife of Hades had two other children Melinoe and Plutus (whose father was Pluto) so she is hardly seen as being a virgin.
The second birth of Dionysus has a few different stories associated with it. One is that Semele was a priestess of Zeus whom Zeus had an affair with as an eagle. Zeus’s wife Hera heard about this and befriended her to sow seeds of doubt into her mind so that Semele would ask Zeus to prove himself. She perished after Zeus showed a small amount of his power and Zeus rescued the fetal Dionysus cleaving him to his thigh. Other accounts of this story have Zeus giving Semele a drink with Dionysus’s heart so she would become pregnant with him, another account has Zeus consuming the heart himself so he could impregnate Semele with it. Out of these accounts, the Study Companion focuses on the one with Semele drinking the heart and becoming pregnant with it. While it can be argued that from this story, Semele was a virgin, some stories describe her as not being one too. Plus, this was not Dionysus’s first birth but merely his re-birth so it’s difficult to say he was really born of a virgin.
The resurrection of Dionysus is a bit of a stretch. Dionysus didn’t die and resurrect but died and was reborn through another woman. I think it’s a stretch to say Dionysus was resurrected instead of saying he was reborn.
The Study Companion also doesn’t have any sources saying Dionysus turned water into wine but merely said that he made the wine appear.
While the ‘King of Kings’ title may be true since Dionysus took over from Zeus as King of the Gods. The epithet of “God’s Only Begotten Son” is not true. Zeus is famous for having many children with many different women, and it wouldn’t be true to say that Dionysus was the ‘Monogenes’ of Zeus. It’s also difficult to call Dionysus the Alpha and Omega or for Dionysus to call himself that as the companion says. Alpha and Omega means that you have no beginning and no end. However, there is a clear beginning to Dionysus and the source cited in the companion is very isolated and poorly sourced.
Conclusion: Some points are debatable, others false.
Claim 13: Mithra of Persia, born of a virgin on December 25th, he had 12 disciples and performed miracles, and upon his death was buried for three days and thus resurrected, he was also referred to as “The Truth,” “The Light,” and many others. Interestingly, the sacred day of worship of Mithra was Sunday.
Study Companion: Although the commonly known myth depicts Mithra as being born from a rock —itself a miraculous birth—there is another version of the Mithraic nativity that portrays the god as being born from the virgin goddess Anahita.
Very simply, “the Twelve” are the signs of the zodiac, metaphorically introduced in the mysteries.
The Zoroastrian theologians are indeed recorded as saying...that as an autumn feast Mihragān was a symbol of resurrection and the end of the world.
The Mithraic sacred day being Sunday represents a well-known tradition.
Examination: The wide consensus is that Mithra was born from a rock and not the story of born of a virgin called Anahita.
Mithra’s birthday is indeed regarded as December 25th.
The Study Guide admits that these weren’t disciples but are referring to the 12 signs of the zodiac.
The Study Guide goes on a weird tangent when discussing the death, burial and resurrection of Mithras instead of talking about the ceremonies symbolising death and resurrection in the Mithraic religion well after Christianity was around. There is nothing in the Mithraic tradition of Mithras ever dying or resurrecting.
Yes, Mithras is said to have performed miracles.
Yes, Mithras could have been referred to as “The Truth” and “The Light” as he was the god of Light and Oath and known as the protector of Truth.
Yes, the Sacred day of worship of Mithra was Sunday, but this tradition came after Christianity was well established.
Conclusion: Mixed. Some parts true, others false.
Here, the makers of Zeitgeist pivot towards Jesus, saying that these same characteristics of being born of a virgin on December 25th, dying for three days and then resurrecting, having 12 disciples, etc. These show that the Christians just plagiarised these other religions. However, let’s look at what we’ve established so far.
Born of a Virgin:
Horus of Egypt – Isis was not a virgin having conceived Horus by having sex with a Phallus.
Attis of Phrygia – Nana was a virgin
Krishna of India – Devaki wasn’t a virgin being married to Vasudeva
Dionysus of Greece – Dionysus’s first Mother Persephone was not a virgin having being married to Hades and having an affair with Zeus. Dionysus’s second mother could be argued was a virgin, but the consensus is that she had an affair with Zeus.
Mithra of Persia – Mithra was born from a rock and had no virgin mother.
Born December 25th:
Horus of Egypt – probably born between the 20th-24thof December or during the Egyptian New Year in July. Not December 25th.
Attis of Phrygia – Attis was most likely born between June and September.
Krishna of India – Was never argued was born on December 25th.
Dionysus of Greece – Said to born between 5th-7thof January.
Mithra of Persia – Was said to be born on December 25th.
Was dead for three days:
Horus of Egypt – No evidence for being dead for 3 days.
Attis of Phrygia – Story of being buried for 3 days and resurrecting comes after Christianity
Krishna of India – Was never argued he was dead for three days.
Dionysus of Greece – Was never argued he was dead for three days.
Mithra of Persia – Mithra never died.
Horus of Egypt – Debatable.
Attis of Phrygia – Story of resurrection comes after Christianity
Krishna of India – Argument is a big stretch and is a forced interpretation of the story.
Dionysus of Greece – Wasn’t resurrected but reborn through another woman.
Mithra of Persia – Never died.
Had 12 disciples:
Horus of Egypt – Was depicted with 12 people was were never seen as his disciples.
Attis of Phrygia – Never argued he had 12 disciples.
Krishna of India – While Krishna had disciples, it was never argued he had 12.
Dionysus of Greece – Was never argued he had 12 disciples.
Mithra of Persia – The 12 “disciples” were just the 12 Zodiac signs. So, not true.
Star in the East at birth:
Horus of Egypt – If the star in the East is Sirius then it contradicts the birthday claimed by Zeitgeist and would be in the south-west in December.
Attis of Phrygia – No star in the east claimed.
Krishna of India – No star in the east, just Hindu star sign.
Dionysus of Greece – No star in the east claimed.
Mithra of Persia – No star in the east claimed.
So, the majority of these claims by Zeitgeist are either false, misleading, a huge stretch or debatable. Only 2 points are true and came before Christianity being Attis born of a virgin and Mithra born on December 25. So, now let us look at the rest of their claims.
Claim 14: Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary on December 25th in Bethlehem
Study Companion: The December 25th birthday is not given in the gospels; rather, it is a traditional date assigned to the birth of Jesus based on prior Pagan traditions.
Examination: While Christian tradition goes that Jesus was in fact born of the Virgin Mary, the date is never mentioned in the Bible. December 25th was adopted by the Early Christians for possibly a few different reasons. The first is that the early Christians wanted to replace the different Roman pagan festivals with their own so that the citizens didn’t feel like they had to give up on these festivals to convert to Christianity and chose the festival of Invictus Sol (December 25th) for the celebration of the birth of Christ. The other reason why they chose December 25th is that it’s 9 months after the traditional date of the Annunciation (when the Angel Gabriel told Mary she would conceive Jesus) on March 25th.
Conclusion: True, but the date is less certain.
Claim 15: (Jesus’s) birth was announced by a star in the east, which three kings or magi followed to locate and adore the new saviour.
Study Companion: In the New Testament (Mt 2:1-12), the number of wise men or magi— i.e., astrologers—following the star at Jesus‘s birth is not given. However, it is traditionally assumed to be three because of the three gifts (frankincense, myrrh and gold) presented by these magi or kings during their visit with the divine child.
Examination: While the Star of Bethlehem certainly helped guide the wise men, it wasn’t announcing Christ’s birth but was primarily to help guide the wise men to Jesus. The Angel Gabriel is a better example of Announcing Christ’s birth; hence the event of the Annunciation.
Also, there is nothing in the Bible that says there were 3 wise men. It’s a common misconception that because there were three gifts that there were also three wise men. The Study Guide admits this.
Conclusion: True but some misconceptions.
Claim 16: He was a child teacher at 12, at the age of 30, he was baptised by John the Baptist, and thus began his ministry. Jesus had 12 disciples which he travelled about with performing miracles such as healing the sick, walking on water, raising the dead, he was also known as the “King of Kings,” the “Son of God,” the “Light of the World,” the “Alpha and Omega,” the “Lamb of God,” and many, many others. After being betrayed by his disciple Judas and sold for 30 pieces of silver, he was crucified, placed in a tomb and after three days was resurrected and ascended into Heaven.
Study Companion: The above motifs all appear in the canonical gospels, in the New Testament section of the Christian Bible.
Examination: All True
Claim 17: First of all, the birth sequence is completely astrological. The star in the east is Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, which, on December 24th, aligns with the three brightest stars in Orion’s Belt. These three bright stars in Orion’s belt are called today what they were called in ancient times: The Three Kings. The Three Kings and the brightest star, Sirius, all point to the place of the sunrise on December 25th. This is why the Three Kings “follow” the star in the east, in order to locate the sunrise—the birth of the sun.
Study Companion: This contention is based on general star alignments, as we have already seen abundantly concerning other gods such as Osiris and Horus. Also, this astrotheological symbolism likely goes back much farther in time; we simply do not know when it was initially recognised. Regardless, the alignment on December 24th is obvious enough: The three stars of Orion clearly line up with Sirius and point to the east, where the sun rises.
Examination: There’s a lot to unpack from this claim. Firstly, Orion’s belt is always in line with Sirius. Their positions don’t change to each other, they are in line with each other all year round. Next, the video is a bit misleading by showing the stars pointing to the sun, which is not what’s described in the audio or the study companion. The only time of year when Orion’s belt and Sirius are pointing to the Eastern Horizon during the sunrise is in the Middle of the Year and you can’t say that Orion’s belt and Sirius are pointing to where the Sun is rising, as you can see in this picture.
However, let’s examine what the audio is actually saying, that the stars are pointing to where the sun will rise the next day (December 25) on the previous night (December 24).
Again, this is either just not the case or if we are going to be generous isn’t unique to December 25. The point that Sirius rises on the 24th of December is 109.5 degrees azimuth, and the point the sun rises on the 25th of December is 117 degrees which are equivalent of about 15 moons in the sky placed side by side along the horizon apart from each other. Now, if we are going to be generous and say that at some point during the night Orion’s belt and Sirius will point to where the sun rises, well, that is just problematic for another reason. Orion and Sirius from Sirius’s rising to Midnight already cover over 40 degrees of the horizon (109.5-150.9). That’s more than a tenth of the horizon that these stars are pointing at some time during the previous night which means that if we are going to go by this criteria, then December 25 isn’t unique at all for these stars pointing at where the sun will rise the next day. This is true from the 10th of November to the 25th of January. Over two months of the year, these stars point to somewhere on the horizon where the sun will eventually rise. You can check all of these points out for yourself here: https://in-the-sky.org/skymap.php.
The last point is that the Study Companion gives no evidence of the early Christians looked at these bogus astrological claims to come up with a fictional narrative for the birth of Jesus.
Conclusion: Misleading and false.
Claim 18: The Virgin Mary is the constellation Virgo, also known as Virgo the Virgin. Virgo is also referred to as the “House of Bread,” and the representation of Virgo is a virgin holding a sheaf of wheat. This House of Bread and its symbol of wheat represent August and September, the time of harvest. In turn, Bethlehem, in fact, literally translates to “house of bread.” Bethlehem is thus a reference to the constellation Virgo, a place in the sky, not on Earth.
Study Companion: The identification of the Virgin Mary with Virgo was obvious and well known enough such that the renowned theologian Albertus Magnus or Albert the Great (1193?-1290) remarked (Lib. de Univers.)
The Hebrew word Bethlehem (םחל תיב (means house of bread (Strong‘s H1035), while Virgo the constellation is typically shown as a maiden holding a sheath of wheat, which, of course, is used to make bread.
Explanation: The only source the Study Companion gives that The Virgin Mary was widely associated with the Virgo Constellation comes from Albert the Great. However, the book cited isn’t listed as a book authored by Albert the Great in any list of his works. The source used to get this quote isn’t from the supposed book but is from a book called, ‘The Devil’s Pulpit’ by Rev. Robert Taylor. I went through the book and found no such source to Albert the Great saying it. However, the source also mentions Dupius who didn’t write the book cited as being the one recounting the quote. However, there is no source given for where Dupius said this. However, this isn’t to say that Albert the Great never wrote on astronomy/astrology and in fact a work of his called Speculum astronomiae does talk about how the microcosm can be found in the macrocosm. However, I was unable to find the quote used except for other sources that point back to the same source given here.
However, even though the source companion didn’t give an adequate source to prove a link between the Virgin Mary and the constellation Virgo, there are other sources I’d like to explore. In a book, ‘Time and Calendars’ by William Matthew O’Neill says, “In medieval Europe, the winged, often haloed, female figure, sometimes with an ear of grain in one hand and a date palm in the other, was identified with the Virgin Mary.”However, again, there is no source for this claim in the book itself and doesn’t point to any examples for where this can be seen.
We can also see some symbolic connection between the Virgin Mary and Virgo in the devotion of, “Our Lady of Guadalupe” with some remarking that the stars on the painting seem to line up with the different constellations in the sky with the Virgo constellation being over where her heart would be. However, in all of these cases, the connection made between the Virgin Mary and Virgo come well after Christ. Albert the Great lived in the 13thCentury, and the Lady of Guadalupe devotion began in the 16th Century. There is no evidence that this connection was present at the beginning of Christianity and no evidence that the Virgin Mary was made up to signify the Virgo constellation in the Christian narrative.
The Virgo constellation is regarded as ‘The Virgin’. However, the Study Guide’s only explanation for why Virgo is also known as the house of bread is because the Virgo symbol often has a grain of wheat in it. It’s a huge stretch to go from there’s a grain of wheat in the symbology to the very constellation itself is known as the house of bread. The reason why she is holding a grain of wheat is to symbolise the start of the grain harvest as mentioned.
Bethlehem does mean ‘House of Bread’ in Hebrew, it also can mean ‘House of Meat’ or ‘House of Lambs’.
The connection between Bethlehem and Virgo is a big stretch since Bethlehem has existed for several centuries before Christ, and there were many prophecies in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be born there that had no connection to the Virgo constellation.
Conclusion: Mostly misleading, some claims true, others poorly sourced or false.
Claim 19: There is another very interesting phenomenon that occurs around December 25th, or the winter solstice. From the summer solstice to the winter solstice, the days become shorter and colder. And from the perspective of the northern hemisphere, the sun appears to move south and get smaller and more scarce. The shortening of the days and the expiration of the crops when approaching the winter solstice symbolized the process of death to the ancients. It was the death of the sun. And by December 22nd, the sun’s demise was fully realized, for the sun, having moved south continually for six months, makes it to its lowest point in the sky. Here a curious thing occurs: the sun stops moving south, at least perceivably, for three days.
Study Companion: Because of the cycles of nature, there is a seemingly confused dichotomy with regard to the rituals signifying this three-day solar death and resurrection, as found in several religions and cults. In the case of Attis, for example, the ritual fell on or around the 25th of March, the vernal/spring equinox, a day that marks the rebirth of the sun, when the light of day overpowers the darkness or when the day becomes longer than the night. So, in the solar death-resurrection motif, we have combined allegories: The daily cycle, as well as the winter solstice and the spring equinox.
Examination: It’s true that from the summer solstice to the winter solstice that the days become shorter and colder and the sun appears to move south from the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, the word ‘solstice’ comes from the Latin meaning ‘The Sun stands still’. However, they claim that the sun stands still for 3 days is not accurate. According to SunCal.org which traces the path of the Sun, I found the altitude of the Sun from Rome over the Winter solstice period in the year 2000 measuring the sun’s altitude every day at 1200hrs. The Sun got to it’s lowest altitude at 24.67 degrees on the 22nd of December, then went back up to 24.68 the next day, 24.70 the day after and 24.72 on the 25th of December. The Sun didn’t stop moving for three days. However, let’s say that it wasn’t moving perceptively like the movie said. Well, then what is a perceptible difference? Let’s say for argument’s sake that a tenth of a degree (a fifth of the moon’s length in the sky), is imperceptible. Well, in this case, the sun doesn’t move perceptively from the 17th to the 26th of December. Let’s go even further and say 0.03 of a degree is imperceptible. Then you have the 19th to the 24thof December. Unfortunately, saying “imperceptible” is too generic unless you give a solid number of what that means.
The winter solstice always happens before December 25, so it’s slightly misleading to focus on that date for the winter solstice.
Conclusion: Partially misleading.
Claim 20: And during this three-day pause, the Sun resides in the vicinity of the Southern Cross, or Crux [Australis], constellation.
Study Companion: It has been claimed that the Southern Cross is not visible from the northern hemisphere and that, therefore, the Egyptians, for one, could not have included it in their myths. In the first place, the fact is that the Southern Cross is indeed visible in the current era from anywhere south of 27° N, which includes a large portion of Egypt, such as some of the most important sites like Abu Simbel (21° N), Luxor (25° N) and Aswan (24° N), as well as some of the most ancient sites like Nabta Playa (22° N), where, again, there is an ancient observatory at least 6,000 years old.
Examination: This is simply not true at all. The Sun is nowhere near the Southern Cross in the sky from the 22-24th of December. The Sun is between Sagittarius and Ophiuchus, above the Corona Australis and Scorpius and beneath Serpens and Scutum during this time. The Southern Cross is barely visible above the Horizon from Cairo at this time.
Claim 21: And after this time on December 25th, the sun moves one degree, this time north, foreshadowing longer days, warmth, and Spring. And thus it was said: the sun died on the cross, was dead for three days, only to be resurrected or born again. This is why Jesus and numerous other sun gods share the crucifixion, three-day death, and resurrection concept.
Study Companion: With the circle of the zodiac being 360 degrees, and the solar year approximating 360 (+5) days, the ancients perceived the sun as moving one degree per day.
Examination: There is no source for this claim that the ancients believed the sun moved one degree per day. Going back to SunCal.org, we see that in actual degrees the sun doesn’t move one degree north on the 25th of December. Going by the same conditions set in the examination of claim 19, we find that between the 24th of the 25th of December the Sun moves 0.02 degrees north. It actually takes until the 7th of January the next year for the Sun to finally move north by 1 degree.
Regarding the attempt to bring everything together to prove this point that all these gods take their stories from these astrological phenomena. We can see quite clearly that this movie has not demonstrated this at all. The Sun is not near the cross at all during the winter solstice, the sun does not stand still for 3 days, and these gods do not all share the same story of the crucifixion, three-day death, and resurrection.
Conclusion: Haven’t sufficiently proven this claim.
The next two claims I won’t bother examining because they are interpretive symbolism of the Sun moving into different seasons and really there is nothing more to add.
We now are moving into the part of Zeitgeist where the movie is directly looking at the Christian religion and mentioning its similarities with Paganism, the astrological metaphors or symbology in the Bible, and how Old Testament stories are plagiarising other pagan stories. A lot of this comes down to personal theology, and there are a lot of different theological beliefs in Christianity that my views may not represent. However, I do believe my theological beliefs are enough to tackle these claims made by Zeitgeist. We have already seen that many of these claims are complete fabrications and are purposefully misleading. It’s not hard to believe that the rest of the movie will be much different. I won’t be quoting the Study Guide anymore (unless I think it’s necessary for the claim), although I’ll still be reading what is said in it. This is just because I think the claims can stand by themselves and don’t need further explanation. Plus I won’t give a conclusion unless there are facts that can be confirmed or debunked. Most of the claims are interpretations and can’t be examined or really be fact-checked. Most of these claims aren’t dealing with facts but are dealing with a particular way of interpreting the Christian religion with astrology and paganism.
Claim 22: Now, probably the most obvious of all the astrological symbolism around Jesus regards the 12 disciples. They are simply the 12 constellations of the Zodiac, which Jesus, being the Sun, travels about with. In fact, the number 12 is replete throughout the Bible.
Reply: 12 is indeed a significant number in the Bible that is replicated many times (187 to be exact). However, 7 is replicated much more (735 times) in the Bible with no real astrological significance. 40 is another (146 times). The best way to show that this number isn’t astrological is to understand why 12 is significant in the Bible in the first place. 12 symbolises completeness in the Bible because this comes from the Old Testament when Jacob (later known as Israel) had twelve sons who then established the 12 tribes of Israel. From this point on the number 12 had always symbolised completeness.
Lastly, this claim is really just a form of apophenia or confirmation bias. The significance of 12 in the Bible has no direct correlation with 12 in the Zodiac. There is a sufficient reason in the Bible to explain the importance of 12 without having to refer to the Zodiac.
Claim 23: Coming back to the cross of the Zodiac, the figurative life of the Sun, this was not just an artistic expression or tool to track the sun’s movements. It was also a Pagan spiritual symbol, the shorthand of which looked like this. This is not a symbol of Christianity. It is a Pagan adaptation of the cross of the Zodiac.
Reply: The cross symbol was indeed used well before Christianity started. The use of the Cross symbol can be traced all the way back to the Late Stone age around 50,000 years ago. However, there’s no evidence that Christians adopted this symbol because of other pagan uses of this symbol. The symbol comes from the cross used to crucify Christ. Christians since then have adopted it and it’s widely recognised with Christianity now. That’s not to say we invented it though. Christians don’t claim that.
Claim 24: This is why Jesus in early occult art is always shown with his head on the cross, for Jesus is the sun, the “Sun of God,” the “Light of the World,” the “Risen Savior,” who will “come again,” as it does every morning, the Glory of God who defends against the works of darkness, as he is “born again” every morning, and can be seen “coming in the clouds,” “up in Heaven,” with his “Crown of Thorns,” or, sun rays.
Reply: Jesus isn’t referred to as the ‘Sun of God’ and the Study companion gives no reference for this title while it does for the others. Light of the World is a title which has several meanings in Christianity. The source given in the study companion comes from when Jesus heals a blind man and proclaims, ‘I am the Light of the world’. This is to mean that while Jesus physically gave this blind man the ability to see light, Jesus himself spiritually enlightens all. There are many other explanations, but this one will suffice.
Risen Saviour refers to Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Christ’s second coming happens after his ascension which doesn’t work with these astrological metaphors since wouldn’t the sun’s second coming need to happen after it died again or at least lowered into darkness? However, this title breaks these metaphors by saying that Christ, after rising into heaven and remaining there, will come again to judge the living and the dead. There is also nothing in Christian theology about Christ continuing coming again daily. The use of this title by the makers just doesn’t work.
“Born Again” is not a title given to Jesus but is talking about Baptism so, again, this metaphor doesn’t work. “Coming in the clouds” is referring to Jesus’s second coming and in fact, the passage mentioned talks about the sun as a separate entity 2 verses prior, so it’s difficult to equate the two in this usage. The “up in heaven” passage isn’t talking about the sky but is rather Jesus talking about His divinity.
‘Crown of Thorns’ being interpreted as sun rays is a bit of a stretch since the thorns in Christ’s crown mostly protrude inwards as a method of pain rather than extrude outwards to deliver light (or some symbolic equivalent) like sun rays.
Claim 25: Now, of the many astrological-astronomical metaphors in the Bible, one of the most important has to do with the ages. Throughout the scriptures, there are numerous references to the “Age.” To understand this, we need to be familiar with the phenomenon known as the precession of the equinoxes. The ancient Egyptians along with cultures long before them recognised that approximately every 2,150 years the sunrise on the morning of the spring equinox would occur at a different sign of the Zodiac. This has to do with a slow angular wobble that the Earth maintains as it rotates on its axis. It is called a precession because the constellations go backwards, rather than through the normal yearly cycle. The amount of time that it takes for the precession to go through all 12 signs is roughly 25,765 years. This is also called the “Great Year,” and ancient societies were very aware of this. They referred to each 2150 year period as an “age.” From 4300 B.C. to 2150 B.C., it was the Age of Taurus, the Bull. From 2150 B.C. to 1 A.D., it was the Age of Aries, the Ram, and from 1 A.D. to 2150 A.D. it is the Age of Pisces, the age we are still in to this day, and in and around 2150, we will enter the new age: the Age of Aquarius.
Reply: What is said about the procession of equinoxes, The Great Year, and individual astrological ages are all accurate. How long each Great Year takes is a disputed figure with 25,772 years being the most accepted. The range of the ages is also disputed with different astrologers having separate timeframes for when the different ages started and finished with the Age of Pisces starting from anywhere between 138 B.C. to 498 A.D according to the different timeframes.
However, there are a few points in this claim which don’t have sufficient proof. The first is that all of this information was well known to the ancient Egyptians. The source is given to suggest that all of this information was well known before Hipparchus (the man most say discovered these phenomena) is the Hamlet’s Mill by Santillana and Dechend. If you read what they say in the book, however, they explain how gathering any evidence for this sort of historical knowledge of astrology is limited and that no knowledge can be found before the year 2,100 B.C. The only possible evidence of people before Hipparchus possibly knowing about astrological ages doesn’t even come from Egypt but from Greece and Mesopotamia. To say that the ancient Egyptians and civilisations well before them knew these numbers and phenomena has no evidence. The earliest we know for sure about these phenomena being discovered was in 127 B.C. by Hipparchus.
From this, we can see that there really is little to no evidence that this idea of ages in the Bible around 1450 B.C. was about Astrological ages. While the Bible does have references to astrological signs like that mentioned in the Study Companion. It’s a completely different argument that these complex theories of astrological ages and the procession of the equinoxes were well known by the Jews over a thousand years before it was discovered.
Claim 26: Now, the Bible reflects, broadly speaking, a symbolic movement through three ages, while foreshadowing a fourth. In the Old Testament, when Moses comes down Mount Sinai with the 10 Commandments, he is very upset to see his people worshipping a golden bull calf. In fact, he shattered the stone tablets and instructed his people to kill each other in order to purify themselves. Most biblical scholars would attribute this anger to the fact that the Israelites were worshipping a false idol, or something to that effect. The reality is—the golden bull is Taurus the Bull, and Moses represents the new Age of Aries the Ram. This is why Jews even today still blow the Ram’s horn. (Jos 6:4) Moses represents the new Age of Aries, and upon the new age, everyone must shed the old age. Other deities mark these transitions as well, such as Mithra, a pre-Christian god who kills the bull, in the same symbology.
Reply: This is an interesting theory except that the idea of Moses issuing in a new astrological age by destroying the Golden calf (or bull as the makers call it), just doesn’t line up with the astrological timeframe that the makers are presenting. Apparently, the age of Taurus ended in 2150 B.C. according to the film, but the time when Moses destroyed, the Golden calf would have been during the 14th or 13th century some 600 years after the end of the age. This means that the Egyptians were still practising bull worship well after the age ended and would be evidence against them knowing about the Astrological ages if they had shifted into the new age of Aries 600 years ago.
The Shofar (Ram horn trumpet) was used for astrological purposes, but it had nothing to do with the stars. It was originally used to issue in a new moon. There is no evidence it has any link to the Astrological Age of Aries.
Claim 27: Now Jesus is the figure who ushers in the age following Aries, the Age of Pisces or the Two Fish. Fish symbolism is very abundant in the New Testament. Jesus feeds 5,000 people with bread and “two fish.” When he begins his ministry walking along Galilee, he befriends two fishermen, who follow him. And I think we’ve all seen the Jesus-fish on the backs of people’s cars. Little do they know what it actually means. It is a Pagan astrological symbolism for the Sun’s Kingdom during the Age of Pisces. Also, Jesus’ assumed birth date is essentially the start of this age.
Reply: The Astrological ages would indeed have been known by the time of Jesus. However, could there be another reason besides the purely astrological that explains why the fish was so widely used in the Early Church? One explanation would be that fishing in Galilee was a booming industry in the 1st Century and contributed a significant amount to the local economy. This large focus on fish in the local economy is why it was likely that Jesus chose fishermen as his disciples, why fish were seen through the New Testament and why he used the idea of fishers of men when calling the fishermen to his discipleship. The later use of the fish as a symbol for Christianity in the early church (the Ichthys symbol), is likely to come from these symbolic uses of fish in the Bible. While saying this, I’ll concede that these arguments are not strong in countering the Pisces argument. Jesus can be associated with Pisces if you take that sort of exegesis.