With the rise of Zoroastrianism and the Babylonian faiths, we essentially see the rise of monotheism and the dualistic concept of good and evil in its first stages of development. Concepts such as a worldwide flood, angels and demons, Manichean dualism and other elements of this sort were heavily influenced by Babylonian tales. Taken together in context, it becomes obvious where Judaism acquired these elements. The historian can then trace the various changes, additions and deletions that eventually formed what we recognize as orthodox Christianity today. Determining the source of Christianity's major tenets and rituals is not a difficult task, and anyone who wishes to research this subject will find evidence of a conspiracy in play during Christianity's formative years to be sorely lacking. Much of the information relevant to this research is contained in the pages of the Bible itself; a careful reading of the Bible will reveal that the Old Testament is essentially a buffet, from which the various off-shooting sects of Judaism that eventually became collectively grouped under the umbrella of Christianity chose which elements and themes they wanted, incorporated these into the documents that eventually formed the New Testament, and added in information about Jesus the Christ.
Rather than pointing out historical facts along these lines and delving into what is actually flawed about Christianity, the filmmaker makes claims about Horus being the Sun God of Egypt (which is erroneous; Horus was the god of the sky) and drags in lists of elements that are characteristic of most religions, such as resurrection from the dead. It is as if Peter Joseph is under the illogical impression that rising from the dead is a feat that would not be a ubiquitous desire across religions! Resurrection is a concept almost all people throughout history have been heavily interested in, especially people in ancient times who had little to no concept of medicine and who had very little understanding of what life really was. Thus, it comes as no surprise that it was very common and popular to believe that the sun created all life or that the sun is a powerful deity because it provides daylight and sustains life. Christianity had no need to steal these concepts. To claim otherwise, as Peter Joseph does in his film, is to be ignorant of history; Christianity had its own particular formative influences, one of these being Judaism, which in turn borrowed from earlier belief systems. Similarity does not in and of itself denote wholesale borrowing from the earlier idea. The bottom line is that Peter Joseph protests far too much in Zeitgeist. As mentioned above, there is a rich buffet of theological concepts and ideas within Judaism and the Persian religions its adherents came into contact with for the Jewish sect of Christianity to have selected from. Why would the proto-Christian believers have any need to turn to Egyptian mythology for inspiration? One does not have to study the history of Christianity very long before discovering the similarities with many other cultures in the surrounding regions; the stories being told over and over again did not all come out of Egypt.
Those who are familiar with Kersey Grave's seminal 1875 work The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors will recognize the strong allusions to its central themes in Zeitgeist . In his book, Graves discussed a large number of comparisons and alleged precursory connections to the Christ story among other gods, Horus being only one. Much of what is discussed in Part I of Zeitgeist come from Grave's work. The fact that this book is not sourced in the film may be owing to the general consensus among historians that the book is unscholarly and unreliable. The primary sources listed for Part I of Zeitgeist are mythicist and conspiracy theorist D.M. Murdock (more popularly known as Acharya S) and the nineteenth-century self-styled Egyptologist Gerald Massey, upon whom Murdock heavily depends in her own writings. In fact, all sources for Part I ultimately lead back to Gerald Massey and other like-minded authors who are cited often by Acharya S, authors who are dismissed by most scholars as unreliable in their research methods. Because the claims contained in this part of the film are so strongly connected to the ideas that have made Acharya S famous, some background on who she is and what her methodologies are is in order.
It becomes fairly clear to any impartial follower of Acharya S's work that she seems to harbor a bizarre agenda against Christianity. Of course, it is popular among certain groups and demographics to hate Christianity, most especially among teenage atheists. But fostering an agenda-based dislike of a worldview one personally disagrees with, a mindset that predisposes those who hold it to discrediting rather than studying, is a phase people tend to grow out of. Acharya S seemingly has not grown out of her sophomoric crusade against Christianity, a crusade that is unscholarly at best and dishonest at worst. Having read many of her articles and blog posts on her website, what strikes me most are the claims she makes about her education. On both her “Who is Acharya S?” and “Credentials” pages, she claims to be fluent in Greek and Hebrew, and on the latter page she actually claims to have “sat down with the Bible – in English, as well as in the original Hebrew and Greek – long enough to understand it more than most clergy” .
This claim clashes starkly with her attempts to prove a connection between Jesus and astrological understandings of the sun by suggesting that “God's Sun = God's Son.” This is etymologically impossible, especially when it is the Greek and Hebrew languages (the languages she is allegedly a fluent expert on) we are talking about. “Sun” and “Son” sound similar only in English and Germanic languages, and in a few Slavic languages. But outside of Indo-European languages, the phonetics of these two words is completely different and there is little or no linguistic similarity whatsoever. The Hebrew word for “sun” is השמש (shemesh)  and the Hebrew word for “son” is בן (ben) . Even the Akkadian word for the Babylonian/Assyrian sun god was Shamash. The only reason the two words sound similar in English is because the word for son was “sunu”  and the word for sun was “sunne” . But Acharya S continues to promote the “God's Sun = God's Son” notion, signaling that her claimed credentials as well as the foundations of her "discoveries" are to be highly questioned. One would think that a person who is well versed in many languages, especially Hebrew and Greek, would realize that these connections cannot be made in this way. This criticism is borne out when one examines her use of sources. She uses Gerald Massey and similar writers as a secondary source quite heavily, but almost never uses primary sources. On the few occasions in which she does throw in a primary source to support her claims, it is often done so dishonestly.
I am not necessarily charging Acharya S with lying. It is entirely possible she is merely embellishing. It is also possible that she is uncritically receiving her information and sources directly from Gerald Massey, who has been denounced as a pseudo-historian by the academic world for over a century. Regardless of where Acharya S is coming from, much about her research methods and conclusions are flawed. Debunking Christianity is not difficult at all; lying and fabricating damning evidence is completely unnecessary. There is no need to make claims to the effect that Christianity was invented out of wholecloth from Egyptian religion, or that it was stolen from both Buddhism and Egyptian religion, as Acharya S claims . Nobody's academic reputation is served well by going overboard with drawing parallels that do not exist between religions, to say for instance that other god-men from earlier religions were crucified when in fact they never were, and then to twist the knife in the wound by suggesting that such parallels necessarily means that the later religion must have stolen from the earlier one. Of course, it is true that Christianity borrowed many concepts from various Roman faiths. But Christianity did not steal nearly as many concepts from earlier faiths as Zeitgeist or pseudo-scholars such as Acharya S would have us believe. Even if it did, it is a logical fallacy to conclude that a religion whose tenets feature concepts such as recurring life and death (as one example) must have been taken from an earlier religion, simply because the earlier one also featured tenets of recurring life and death.
The filmmaker even goes beyond the erroneous parallels he makes between Jesus and other earlier gods such as Attis, Krishna, Dionysus and Mithra to make the claim that the cross is representative of the Zodiac. At the beginning of the film, Peter Joseph explains as follows by way of background:
This is the cross of the Zodiac, one of the oldest conceptual images in human history. It 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 4 seasons, and the solstices and equinoxes. The term “Zodiac” relates to the fact that constellations were anthropomorphized, or personified, as figures, or animals.The film implies that the Zodiac has always been connected with the constellations, and that there have always been only twelve of them. The oldest known zodiacs do not have twelve signs; the Babylonian zodiac, for example, originally consisted of eighteen signs , while the Mayan Zodiac consisted of twenty . Despite the fact that the Egyptian and Greek zodiacs do contain twelve signs, these signs are not and were not recognized as representative of cosmic truth by all civilizations. Furthermore, there are in actuality thirteen constellations that the sun passes through. For some odd reason, modern astrologers do not take into account Ophiuchus, the missing constellation .
In other words, the early civilizations did not just follow the sun and stars, they personified them with elaborate myths involving their movements and relationships. The sun, with its life-giving and -saving qualities was personified as a representative of the unseen creator or god. It was known as “God's Sun,” the light of the world, the savior of human kind. Likewise, the 12 constellations represented places of travel for God's Sun and were identified by names, usually representing elements of nature that happened during that period of time. For example, Aquarius, the water bearer, who brings the Spring rains.
Later on in the film, Joseph adds sensationalism to his unscholarly understanding of the Zodiac's history and meaning, as we can see here:
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. 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.The history of the cross has very little to do with the Zodiac. The cross represents the traditional understanding that Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross, and this is why Christians use it as the symbol for their religion. They have never used the cross to represent the Zodiac. If Jesus had been beaten to death with a club, perhaps the Christian symbol would be a club rather than a cross. Peter Joseph has simply taken the easy path of making false connections in order to prove something to people that conforms to and serves his agendas, and the people who fall for Joseph's claims are those who do not follow up with research of their own. Even if Joseph's claims were true, Christianity would still not be proven wrong, which is something that can be accomplished without a great deal of effort. Again, lying is completely unnecessary in accomplishing that task. Resorting to lies only suggests to those of us who have done our homework that Joseph and others with similar ideas have perhaps uncritically fallen for Christian apologetic tactics, and consequently proceeded to base their critique of Christianity on ideological or agenda-driven motives, rather than on reason.
The film's claim that “this is why Jesus in early occult art is always shown with his head on the cross” is not the case. Early occult depictions of Jesus showed his head on a halo, not a sun. Between the third and sixth centuries CE, halos were quite common for deities and other holy people. Many other deities and holy people with similar details surrounding their personages can be seen in ancient art that have no connection to the sun . The filmmaker then attempts again to establish a connection between Jesus, the sun, and so forth. In this instance, the film fails to convincingly do so because it interprets all titles and traditional descriptions of Christ too literally.
Furthermore, there are a multitude of other instances in which the Zodiac could be used as a loose argument for establishing metaphorical connections. The ancient Hebrews, for example, were very aware of the Zodiac, as indicated simply by the existence of their phrase mazal tov (deriving from a Mishnaic word meaning “constellation” or “destiny,” and literally translating as “good luck”). But whether or not the cross of crucifixion (or any other cultural symbol pre-dating Christianity) is represented by the Zodiac is another matter entirely. In the case of the cross, the evidence from anthropology strongly indicates otherwise. The cross is one of the oldest symbols known, dating from as early as the Neolithic era, and was used by every known culture since that era for a variety of reasons that differ widely. The particular capacity in which the cross was used by any given culture in the past depended largely upon what the local population believed the cross to symbolize or represent. The cross-shaped sign in its earliest known form was represented as a crossing of two lines at right angles, in many cases forming an X that would be used to denote the mark of one who was buried. Another cross that challenges Joseph's portrayal of the symbol as one that remained sterile and conformed to interpretations of the Zodiac throughout history is the ankh, or ansated cross. This ancient Egyptian cross form, featuring a loop that circles on the top, symbolized eternal life and fertility and often appeared as a sign in the hands of the goddess Sekhmet.
I am not excluding entirely the idea that elements of Christianity were lifted from earlier influential mythologies. But to suggest that Christianity is nothing more than an amalgamation of different mythological ideas and that it was stolen from one single source and therefore somehow managed to perpetuate ages-old hijacked symbolism is far too great a stretch. There is no question that many concepts within Christianity were taken from or inspired by pre-existing belief systems and mythologies. But this is not the same as the misleading and inaccurate claim that every concept was stolen. The architects of Christianity were not actively or consciously stealing concepts from Egyptian religion and mythology as part of a conspiracy to politically control the lives of people.
In order to establish weak connections between Christianity and astrology, the filmmaker even stoops to the level of misquoting and misrepresenting the Bible (King James Version), a book that is already full of mistranslations as is, and which lacks a substantial amount of information that is represented in Christianity. Consider, for instance, what the filmmaker has to say about the Passover:
At Luke 22:10, when Jesus is asked by his disciples where the next Passover will be after he is gone, Jesus replied: “Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you bearing a pitcher of water . . . follow him into the house where he entereth in.” This scripture is by far one of the most revealing of all the astrological references. The man bearing a pitcher of water is Aquarius, the water-bearer, who is always pictured as a man pouring out a pitcher of water. He represents the age after Pisces, and when the Sun (God's Sun) leaves the Age of Pisces (Jesus), it will go into the House of Aquarius, as Aquarius follows Pisces in the precession of the equinoxes. Also, Jesus is saying that after the Age of Pisces will come the Age of Aquarius.While the reply from Jesus is quoted correctly here, the question asked by the disciples is not. Luke 22:10 is quoted correctly , but the misleading nature of the claim the filmmaker is using this verse to support becomes clear when we take a closer look at the context of the disciples' actual question. Luke 22:7-9 tells us: “Then came the first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. And Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover for us, so that we may eat it.’ They said to Him, ‘Where do You want us to prepare it? ’”
The disciples in this passage are not asking “where the next Passover will be,” but rather where they would be preparing and partaking of the Passover that evening. Still, even if the filmmaker represented the context correctly, the symbolism put forth by the film is inaccurate as well. The film describes Aquarius as “always pictured as a man pouring out a pitcher of water.” In the passage of Luke, however, the man the disciples meet is not pouring out a pitcher of water, but rather carrying a pitcher of water. If this is the symbolic reference that the film claims it to be, one may well ask why the symbolism is wrong.
This level of misrepresentation and misquoting is representative of the film's treatment of other Biblical passages as well, such as the filmmaker's claim that Matthew 28 is the main source for Christian understandings of end-times doctrines, as we see in the following quote:
Now, we have all heard about the end times and the end of the world. Apart from the cartoonish depictions in the Book of Revelation, the main source of this idea comes from Matthew 28:20, where Jesus says “I will be with you even to the end of the world.” However, in King James Version, “world” is a mistranslation, among many mistranslations. The actual word being used is “aeon,” which means “age.” “I will be with you even to the end of the age.” Which is true, as Jesus' Solar Piscean personification will end when the Sun enters the Age of Aquarius. The entire concept of end times and the end of the world is a misinterpreted astrological allegory. Let's tell that to the approximately 100 million people in America who believe the end of the world is coming.It is interesting to note that the filmmaker dismisses the Book of Revelation as containing “cartoonish descriptions,” considering that the Book of Revelation contains the majority of the end-times predictions in Christianity's theological system. Either Peter Joseph has not read the Bible or he is utilizing very selective tactics in order to draw a parallel between the Zodiac and the Bible, a parallel that Revelation does not readily conform to. Matthew 28 is by no means the “main source” for Christian eschatology. Passages in Matthew 24 , Second Thessalonians 2 , the Book of Daniel  and of course Revelation  are far better and more in-depth sources. But it is clear that such misrepresentation and selective reasoning is required in order to prop up a case that the Bible is an astrological document. The King James Bible contains a total of 31,102 verses . If the Bible is an astrological document, one would expect that there would be much more than a few verses indicating astrological connections between Jesus, Passover, the Zodiac, the dispensations, and so forth.
Also of interest is the fact that the film claims the King James Version of the Bible contains mistranslations, such as the word “world” actually meaning “aeon.” Yet the filmmaker uses the King James Version as a basis for his claims. The filmmaker appears more interested in levying a general attack on the reliability of the translation, presumably so that he can spin passages of his choosing however he chooses. While it is true that “world” in this case actually is a mistranslation of what should be “aion,” the Greek word is “αιων”  which means “eternity” rather than “age.” The Greek word for “age” is “παλαιώνω” (palaiono) . Thus, despite the mistranslation, the general idea remains correctly conveyed, i.e., “even to the end of the world” versus “even to the end of eternity.”
The ideas presented in Part I of Zeitgeist concerning the origins of Christianity and the Egyptology/Christianity connections it makes have begun to make their way into popular culture, despite the fact that these ideas came into their own over a century ago at a time when in-depth scholarship on Christianity was not yet fully developed. For example, popular social critic and political commentator Bill Maher has begun to follow the same path in some of his statements. Many of the connections between Jesus and Horus that were made by Peter Joseph were made by Maher in his documentary film Religulous . But this is the only aspect of the film as a whole for which Maher did not investigate claims as closely as he should have, and this demonstrates the need for even skeptics of the supernatural to be discerning in what we base our arguments on. Religulous is an example of a film that contains mostly hard-hitting and challenging truth, with a small amount of fiction mixed in. The opposite is the case for Zeitgeist; a very few points are correct, but the overwhelming majority of its points are untrue, nonsensical or completely irrelevant.
It is certainly true that the story of Christ is echoed by way of similarities or mythological motifs within ancient religions pre-dating Christianity. But this was by no means unique to Christianity, and to build a special case for Christianity being a fraud consciously perpetrated upon the masses based on the existence of similarities in past religions is illogical to the utmost. Furthermore, the film is also deceptive in the manner it presents arguments; the film makes direct claims to the effect that Christianity only stole its various central tenets from the ancient Egyptians, not bothering to reference any other influence upon the Christian religion. Christianity was indeed influenced to a slight degree by Egyptian religion, but there are far more inconsistencies than there are similarities, and the similarities that are there exist only to the extent that the ideas and concepts incorporated by Christianity were ubiquitous throughout Mesopotamia and beyond. Moreover, when religious scholars and anthropologists encounter concepts or philosophies in one religion that are more or less exactly the same across two pre-dating cultures (for example, the Egyptian faiths and Babylonian faiths), tracing the source of influence is often a matter of asking which culture or civilization was closer to the centers in which the newer religion developed. In the case of Christianity, it was the Babylonians who were closer and who therefore had a much more direct influence on Christianity's development. If Christianity borrowed elements from any earlier culture or religious system, it was the Babylonians, specifically the concepts of monotheism, dualism, angels and demons, a worldwide flood, and others. This is especially the case if one comes from a culture similar to surrounding cultures. In this case, it comes as no surprise that similar conclusions are sure to be reached, or that concepts are going to be borrowed simply because the people striving to create a model of the world that makes sense to them find other cultures' ideas very satisfying.
I do not have an ulterior motive in being highly skeptical of these claims in the film. I am by no means a Christian, much less an apologist for the Christian faith. Christianity remains a very flawed religion whether Peter Joseph's claims are true or not. Thus, it does not make a difference to me if I am falsely charged with being a “closet Christian.” What matters is discerning truth from falsehood, and this is not accomplished based upon what a person or group professes to believe as opposed to what I or anyone else believes. Thus far in our examination of Zeitgeist, the central arguments presented in the first part are seen to be factually and logically wrong, and are easily debunked by following up on the sources used in the film itself. There is nothing at stake for me personally if I am wrong; if the various disparate claims contained in Zeitgeist were proven to be true tomorrow, I would not have a reason to care, except to correct my critiques. A great many conspiracy theory enthusiasts are under the false impression that skeptics make the time and effort to debunk conspiracy theories because we have something to gain from debunking them. Hence, the most common accusations levied against skeptics of conspiracy theories such as those promoted by Peter Joseph is that we are closet Christians, government agents, or on someone's payroll. When cornered in debate, accusations of this ilk are often the conspiracy theorists' only recourse.
It is also quite interesting to note that conspiracy theorists with an agenda-driven mindset, such as Peter Joseph and Acharya S, seem to operate under the false assumption that nothing original can be created within new religions or belief systems, or that all true ideas are necessarily original. This is seen in the film's baseline assumption that every single concept within religions such as Christianity must have been stolen from earlier sources. What they either ignore or fail to realize is that it is not difficult to come up with original ideas and concepts, to imagine supernatural reasons why the sun shines, for instance.
1. Kersey Graves, The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors: Christianity Before Christ (1875; Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited Press, 2001).
2. Acharya S, “What Are Acharya's Credentials?” Truth Be Known, http://www.truthbeknown.com/credentials.html (accessed 30 March 2011).
3. “השמש” http://tinyurl.com/ypqxbg (Hebrew language - reference for word only, accessed 30 March 2011).
4. “בן” http://tinyurl.com/29jd22 (Hebrew language - reference for word only, accessed 30 March 2011).
5. “Son (n.)” Online Etymology Dictionary, http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=son&searchmode=none (accessed 30 March 2011).
6. “Sun (n.)” Online Etymology Dictionary, http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=sun&searchmode=none (accessed 30 March 2011).
7. Acharya S/D.M. Murdock, “Is Buddhism Atheistic?” Truth Be Known, http://truthbeknown.com/lifeofbuddha.htm (accessed 30 March 2011); Acharya S/Murdock, “Beddru is Beddou is Buddha,” Truth Be Known, http://truthbeknown.com/beddru.html (accessed 30 March 2011).
8. Derek and Julia Parker, The New Compleat Astrologer (New York: Crescent Books, 1990), p. 194.
9. Barbara Tedlock, Time and the Highland Maya (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1992).
10. Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion, Stars and Planets: The Most Complete Guide to the Stars, Planets, Galaxies, and the Solar System (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008).
11. “Artists by Nationality: Greek Artists,” Artcyclopedia: The Ultimate Guide to Great Art Online, http://www.artcyclopedia.com/nationalities/Greek.html (accessed 30 March 2011).
12. Luke 22:10 and Parallel Translations, Bible Suite, http://bible.cc/luke/22-10.htm (accessed 30 March 2011).
13. Luke 22:7 and Parallel Translations, Bible Suite, http://bible.cc/luke/22-7.htm (accessed 30 March 2011); Luke 22:8 and Parallel Translations, Bible Suite, http://bible.cc/luke/22-8.htm (accessed 30 March 2011); Luke 22:9 and Parallel Translations, Bible Suite, http://bible.cc/luke/22-9.htm (accessed 30 March 2011).
14. “Matthew 24:1” (and following web pages), Scripturetext.com: Online Multilingual Bible, http://scripturetext.com/matthew/24-1.htm (accessed 30 March 2011).
15. “2 Thessalonians 2:1” (and following web pages), Scripturetext.com: Online Multilingual Bible, http://scripturetext.com/2_thessalonians/2-1.htm (accessed 30 March 2011).
16. “Daniel 1:1” (and following web pages), Scripturetext.com: Online Multilingual Bible, http://scripturetext.com/daniel/1-1.htm (accessed 30 March 2011).
17. “Revelation 1:1” (and following web pages), Scripturetext.com: Online Multilingual Bible, http://scripturetext.com/revelation/1-1.htm (accessed 30 March 2011).
18. Stephen M. Miller and Robert V. Huber, The Bible: A History – The Making and Impact of the Bible (Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2004), p. 173.
19. “Mat. 28:20,” Blue Letter Bible, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Mat&c=28&v=20&i=conc#20 (accessed 30 March 2011).
20. The reader can confirm this for herself by consulting the Greek-English/English-Greek online dictionary at http://www.kypros.org/cgi-bin/lexicon (accessed 30 March 2011).
21. Larry Charles and Bill Maher, Religulous (Thousand Words, 2008).