Meri, Mary and the Mother of the Saviour

Virgin BirthA recent comment on this blog asked about the Egyptian Meri as a name for Isis as a connection to Mary the mother of Jesus.  If you Google Meri and Mary you will find dozens of web-sites making that connection, seeing this as evidence that Mary the mother of Jesus is based on Meri the mother of Horus.  So what are we to make of this?

There are two problems.  The first is on the Egyptian front.  It is true that Isis is described as Meri.  But so are Re and Amun and just about every other god, male or female.  Meri is not a name but an adjective that means ‘beloved.’  When a worshipper wanted to describe their adoration, they would address their god as Meri, whether that was Meri-Isis or Meri-Re or whatever the god was.  Meri is a generic term that is not specifically identified with Isis.  In fact, even inanimate objects such as a well could be called meri.  Here are some examples.

The second problem is on the biblical front.  It is very possible that the name Mary is derived from the Egyptian Meri.  The problem for the Jesus myth theorists is that Mary is not used exclusively for the mother of Jesus.  In fact, there are at least six Marys in the New Testament.  Are all of these Isis? Not only that, a study has been done from all our texts, Christian and Jewish, from first century Palestine and it has been shown that out of 328 mentions of women by name, seventy were named Mary.  That means, based on our current information, 21% of women were named Mary.  Are we to identify all of these Marys as being a reference to Isis?

The fact is that Mary in the New Testament is not connected to Isis.  At some point, the word meri as beloved made it to Israel.  What nicer word than ‘beloved’ to name a daughter?  It was so nice that it became the most popular female name among the Jews.  There was a one in five chance that Jesus’ mother would be a Mary and we should look to probability rather than mythology for understanding her name.

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19 thoughts on “Meri, Mary and the Mother of the Saviour”

  1. Those are good criticisms. D.M. Murdock responds to them, but you’d have to be the judge of how well she does.

    The main point probably is that, by the Christian era, Isis was one of the most (if not the most) well known Egyptian deity, and one of the most widely worshipped in the Roman Empire. So, it’s possible that the term Meri was beginning to be identified with her. However, Isis (and Isis syncretizations) were referred with meri and similar terms all the way through the centuries prior to Rome being Christianized.

    Even though the Egyptian term Meri could refer to even inanimate objects, I don’t know if there is any evidence that Jews and Romans would’ve been familiar with that meaning. It probably would’ve been most known as an epithet or, as Murdock argues, maybe even as a name. Very few non-Egyptians could tell an ipethet or a name apart when it was stated both as Isis-Meri and Meri-Isis. Murdock sees evidence that Meri was beginning to be used by itself.

    As for the second problem, Mary isn’t used exclusively for either Egyptians or for Jews. Mary was a common name for Pagan goddesses. So, it isn’t surprising that it was a popular name for people as well. As for the 6 Marys of the NT, Murdock mentions this and hypothesizes a possible connection to 6 Hathors (as Hathor was the goddess of love that became identified with Isis).

    All of this is is just one tiny aspect of the mythicist theory. It doesn’t stand or fall on one single detail. Meri is just a possible connection that many reputable scholars have written about. There are many other possible connections that mythicists point out. As the possible connections increase so does the probability of those connections.

  2. Benjamin, I think Murdock’s argument is very weak. To sum it up, she is saying that Isis Meri then became exclusively Meri which is then somehow connected to the Greek Mary which is connected to Meriam. And that’s all she has to bank on.
    I really don’t see any connection with Isis and Mary at all. Isis wasn’t even a virgin to begin with, she was also a magician, a goddess, brought her husband/brother back from the dead and engaged in necrophilia. She also tricked Re into revealing his real name when she summoned a snake to bite him, daughter of the god Geb, lady of bread, beer, green fields, patron of slaves, and goddess of simplicity.
    She was associated with seasons and patterns.

    Mary on the other hand was just a real normal personal woman living in a real normal world. She was a practicing Jew, a devoted wife, and had other kids. She even declared she needed a savior. (only sinners need a savior). Her pregnancy was prophesized unlike Isis. She was married to a real normal man who was just a normal carpenter, died a normal death, never performed magic, or miracles. She exhibited normal feelings of fear and uncertainty for her role but remained faithful to the Lord as a servant. Jesus’ birth was God’s miracle, not hers. Even the Jewish Talmud confirms her as a real human person. She was never a significant character to begin with (but don’t tell that to the Catholics)That’s it! That’s all the Bible ever says. All the additional stuff about her (Queen of Heaven, ascending into Heaven, an intercessor to Jesus, the “New Eve”) was made up by people using pagan elements to spice her up. She’s resembles too much as a goddess. Its definitely not biblical though. She was the mother of THE GOD, not a god or some half hawk half looking guy. Pretty much, God used her as a vehicle to give entrance to the Christ because He found favor in her.

    The reason why she took on a Pagan/Isis figure is because many pagans were converted to Christianity and added that element to her.

    So what connection are we really talking about?
    If anyone is to say just her name resembles Isis, then that is the weakest argument I have ever heard of. Go look at the connections and similarities of JFK and Lincoln! Very eerie.

    Acharya S aka D.M. Murdock, is a moron. She’s not a historian, Jewish expert, egyptologist, or anything of that matter. I would consult with some credible or a academic scholar in that field before using her works as a reference. I have more respects for some atheist that actually have good points than Murdock’s lousy scholarship.

    go to the http://zeitgeistchallenge.com/

  3. I would have to see Murdock’s evidence. The problem with the 6 Marys as the 6 Hathors is that 6 Marys are spread over the New Testament (Gospels and Paul) and as critics are fond of pointing out, the canon was not firm for a couple of centuries.

    Mary was a common name for goddesses? Please share some examples.

  4. herqlez253 – Have you actually read the books Murdock/Acharya has written? Or, like so many, are you speaking from ignorance? I’ve seen all the criticisms (ignorant and otherwise), and it takes enough of my time simply to respond to the more intelligent critics such as Bedard. When you demonstrate you understand even the basic elements of the mythicist theory, I’ll take your comments seriously.

    Isis was a virgin because that is what she was called. You can claim the Egyptians were liars for describing Isis as a virgin, but that is your problem. As I was telling Bedard, there is a difference between a myth and an evemerized myth. Did the historical story come first or the mythology? It is practically impossible to tell.

    Anyways, I’m not arguing for certainty about any of this. My interest is merely to consider possibilities and probabilities, and the deeper meanings implied. History can be interesting to study, but I don’t base my religious beliefs on historical figures.

  5. As I remember it, the possible Hathor and Mary connection was mostly a passing comment and not an argument that she fleshed out. She merely stated that the Hathors and Marys have similar attributes, but she didn’t give further details as I recall.

    I understand your objection about your saying they’re spread out. I’ve never studied this particular connection to any great extent, and so I don’t know if it is significant… just another possibility to be followed if one’s curiosity is piqued.

    However, there are some possible explanations to the issue you brought up.

    The gospels were collected by people who may have collected them because they noticed certain mythological motifs. Many early Christians would’ve been aware of these other myths. This would be especially true for those who were educated which would definitely include the type of person who collects texts.

    Many scholars (such as Ehrman) argue that many things were added to (and removed from) the early Christian scriptures. The Marys may have been added or the name Mary added to already existing characters or the Hathor attributes may have been added.

    I really don’t know. This specific aspect isn’t one that personally intrigues me. It’s just a possibility. If you don’t like, feel free (as you always are) to discard it.

    As for Mary goddesses, I’ve come across various mentions of this. But it is also something I haven’t looked much into. There are some Semitic goddesses named such as Mari-El and Mari-Anath. Some scholars have hypothexized Miriam comes from Egypt and possibly originated as Meri-Amu, and so Miriam may be an evemerized goddess. Mari is the main goddess of Basque mythology. Murdock said that early Christians were aware of Stella Mare. There is the Indian Mariamman, and the Indian mythology had major contact with the Egyptian and Graeco-Roman.

    I think Murdock mentioned some other examples, but you get the idea. This similarity maybe isn’t that surprising as many of the cultures in the Graeco-Roman world had been influencing eachother for thousands of years prior to Christianity.

  6. Ben Steele, Have you actually read the Bible? Or like so many, speaking from ignorance?
    The Mary in the Bible is not the same as the Catholic’s or Orthodox version of Mary.
    Mary didn’t remain a virgin. The last thing ever mentioned about her was in the Book of Acts.
    Paul and some of the last apostles such as Peter and John never ever ever mention anything like her ascension. (That’s because it never happened)

    If you’re insinuating that Catholic/Orthodox Mary is somehow mystically related to Isis, then I completely agree with you and Murdock. Just look at what pagan Emperor Constantine integrated in Christianity and the evolution and development of Mariam ideology. That’s why her dogma took the longest to be accepted and even then Christian apologetics, popes, and bishops rejected the idea because it wasn’t scriptural. The first mentions of her being a queen of heaven, eternal virgin, sinless and sanctified through grace wasn’t even mentioned until almost 2 centuries later! So yeah, you partially right in a sense depending on which Mary you’re referring to.
    But if you or Murdock is suggesting that otherwise, I would be very careful to make such claims. Its self-embellish. By the ways, I have seen some of Murdock’s work such as the companion handguide to zeitgeist, not impressed at all. She deliberately goes on to say that its very difficult to find info that she knows and she somehow has access to ancient history. She also claims that we can’t validate her works..so what are we suppose to do? Take her word for it?..but the funny thing of all is, she NEVER CITES ONE CREDIBLE SOURCE, NOT ONCE ON WHERE SHE GETS HER INFO FROM.

    Get this, in her Companion Hand guide book, she cites Wallace Budge almost 40 times in a 50 page book! The irony behind it is that she states A DISCLAIMER that she “can’t validate his works which appears to be “outdated”…now how funny is that? The same guy she’s citing is the same guy she’s saying has outdated works that can’t be verified.

    I think you need to read her works again for yourself. She also claims that the reason why that information is not widely known is because it was a mystery and “not written” down…so she must know some inside scoop that experts in Mithraism or Egyptologist professing at a university don’t know anything about, eh? Kudos for her. H

  7. Fact: History does repeat (the basics remain the same, the details can be a bit different). Proof:

    Eccelesiastes 1:10 –> (Please look up link below)

    http://www.latinvulgate.com/

    Jesus = Horus = Amun – Ra = etc.

    When you look at the ancient past, try to sense the links, often very, very loose, between it and what occurred 2,000 years ago.

    Note: God, many times, does not want to provide hard, firm links between important things. (Why?)

    Also: Temporal discrepencies in the Gospels; The basics in Jesus’ life are in order, no doubt. However, small temporal details are not. What does this prove? Ecclesisastes 1:10. One story of Jesus may be 100,000 years old, another 2,000 years old.

    History does repeat my friends, and if it does not, then Ecclesisastes 1:10 is 100% non-truth.

    God bless!

    Stephen Michael Strelko

    P.S. “Ask and you shall receive” is a promise of our Bible. If you do not believe the above, ask Jesus. Ask Him for wisdom concerning what I wrote. Another thing: The Earth has been here for a very long time. To think that Jesus has been here only once is really pushing it.

  8. Interesting thoughts. However, Ecclesiastes 1:10 is not saying anything so esoteric as a revolving cycle of messiahs or god-men. It is simply saying that when we look at life, the things we experience are not unique to us but have been experienced throughout humanity.

    Regarding the connections between Jesus and the Egyptian gods, they are looser than loose. When one reads the actual Egyptian myths, it is difficult to see any similarity with Jesus. Horus was not born of a virgin, was not crucified and did not experience a resurrection anything like Jesus (Horus was brought back to life after a scorpion sting as a child). I hear you saying that these are only loose connections. But when are connections so loose that they no longer exist?

  9. herqlez253 – I just noticed your comment. Yes, I’ve read the Bible.

    Anyways, you’re correct that there are various versions of Mary. There were various versions of many things right from the beginning of Christianity. You can’t blame it all on the Catholics. 🙂

    As for Murdock, I wrote a review of Christ in Egypt.

    http://www.amazon.com/review/R2F3UU2LLYU2YH/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

    To quote part of my review:

    Murdock cites more than nine hundred scholarly sources and primary texts which includes thousands of footnotes, around 60 illustrations, and a 36 page long bibliography. She references the contemporary mythicist scholars Earl Doherty, Robert M. Price, and G.A. Wells; she goes into great detail about the criticisms of Gerald Massey; and she has a large section where she discusses her disagreement with Richard Carrier. Both Price and Doherty praise her work and reference it, and Price wrote a foreword to one of her earlier books (Who Was Jesus?). Also, here are some of the modern Egyptologists she references: Rudolf Anthes, Jan Assman, Hellmut Brunner, Claas J. Bleeker, Bob Brier, Henri Frankfort, Alan H. Gardiner, John Gwyn Griffiths, Erik Hornung, Barry Kemp, Barbara Lesko, Bojana Mojsov, Siegfried Morenz, William Murnane, Margaret A. Murray, Donald B. Redford, Herman te Velde, Claude Traunecker, Reginald E. Witt, and Louis V. Zabkar.

    To quote from Christ in Egypt:

    “I have been compelled to do extensive and exhaustive research in the pertinent ancient languages, such as Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Coptic, while I have also utilized authorities in modern languages such as German and French. . . . In my analysis of the ancient Egyptian texts, I consulted and cross-referenced as many translations as I could find, and I attempted to defer to the most modern renditions as often as possible.”

  10. Murdock,aka, Achary got her information from
    Gerald Massey who has written several books on the mythical sources of Christianity. I have discovered that most of waht Massey wrote about the connection between Horus and Jesus is either manipulation of words or misinterpretation. His books mention several names and phrases that did not exist prior to the christian era, or did not exist at all. His ancient history is incorrect. In one instance He mentions King Har-si-Atef, who he claims built a stable in Egypt where Horus was born in a manger on Dec.25th, and visited by three Magi. Harsiatef was an Ethiopian king, who may have
    been visited by magi, but they certainly were not Kings as Anchary believes. They were not mentioned as being kings in the Bible.There is no evidence that Harsaitef was ever in Egypt.

    1. Tree – You’re obviously not well informed about Acharya’s writings. She doesn’t rely on what Massey wrote. In Christ In Egypt, she mostly discusses the scholarship of modern Egyptologists. She does discuss Massey a bit in that book mainly because people try to mindlessly dismiss her work by making the false claim that it’s all based on people like Massey. Here is an excerpt from that book about Massey:

      http://www.stellarhousepublishing.com/who-is-gerald-massey.html

  11. Benjamin, I would hope that no one would rely on Massey. Regarding the link you gave, I have read some of Massey’s work and it is pretty shoddy scholarship. I would love to hear about one recognized egyptologist who would accept Massey as a knowledgeable egyptologist.

    1. Massey was personal friends with some of the best Egyptologists of his day. He conferred with them in doing his own scholarship. Acharya points out that, even though he could read hieroglyphics, he intentionally chose to rely upon other scholars’ translations.

      When he was alive, his scholarship wasn’t unrespectable. The fact that he associated with some of the best scholars seems to support his scholarly status for that time period. Obviously, scholarship has changed. Egyptology and Biblical studies in general were imperfect back then as compared to today. Judging the scholarship from a century ago according to today’s standards isn’t a fair comparison… not that people making such criticisms are all that concerned with being intellectually fair.

      I would hope no one would solely rely upon any scholarship from a century ago. To criticize in the opposite direction, I feel immensely depressed when I see the “scholarship” that many apologists rely upon.

      The point is moot anyways. Acharya isn’t relying on Massey. She is simply saying that most of the criticisms of Massey come from a lack of knowledge about Massey. And yet the ignorant keep trying to dismiss Acharya’s scholarship by dismissing Massey. All scholarship from a century ago is suspect. So what? That isn’t much of a criticism of Acharya’s scholarship based on modern Egyptology.

    2. I was thinking that a scholar such as yourself would be more intellectually humble. I can think of a number of living scholars (such as Robert M. Price and Richard Carrier) who would be strongly critical of some of your own scholarship.

      It’s easy to criticize the scholarship of someone alive a century ago. A hundred years offers quite a bit of 20/20 hindsight. It’s highly probable that scholars a hundred years in the future won’t look back too kindly on much of the scholarship right now. Maybe some future scholar will derisively dismiss your own work as shoddy.

      It’s true that scholarship in past centuries had less stringent standards than today. And it will probably be true that scholarship in the coming centuries will be of a higher standard than is presently exibited by academics such as yourself. Scholarship is constantly improving. That isn’t reason for criticizing past scholars who were working with more limited and less clear data.

  12. Of course there are changes in standards of scholarship. And yet I can look at biblical scholars of a hundred years ago and recognize their academic ability and accomplishments. If you were to talk to Egyptologists currently teaching in universities, they would likely be able to point scholars a hundred years ago that made a significant impact on the field and I expect that Gerald Massey would not be one of them. I would encourage you to contact Egyptologists and ask them and see if any of them have even heard of Massey.

    1. If I asked most scholars alive today (Egyptologists, Biblical Studies, or whatever), they probably wouldn’t have heard of you. A century from now, it’s even less likely that anyone will remember your scholarship. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t argue that your present (and possibly future) lack of academic popularity means your scholarship should just be dismissed out of hand. What determines popularity (in highschool or in academia) isn’t always or merely based on merit. You should understand that.

      BTW I’m not defending Massey per se. I’m just defending against narrowminded tunnel vision… which academia often has a way of encouraging. Many academics prefer to defend pet theories or maintain respectability rather than do challenging research. Plus, academics most often are specialists not knowing much outside their own speciality within their own field.

      This is especially a problem for people attempting to be both academics and apologists. There have been many apologists over the centuries who thought of themselves or else posed as scholars. A few of them were great scholars, but many of them could easily be classified as below even Massey. Apologetics, these days, is becoming an ever less respectable field. If a person is seeking respectability from future scholars, apologetics is probably not a field with which one would want to be identified. I’m sure if a poll was done right now among scholars in all fields apologetic biblical scholars would be rated very low on the respectability scale.

      I’m basically saying it’s not wise for an apologist to try to make himself feel better by criticizing the scholarship of someone from a century ago. Intellectual humility is always a safer bet… not that apologists are known for intellectual humility.

  13. It should be extremely obvious to anyone with any real understanding of ANYTHING, that nothing happens in a vacuum, EVERYTHING is connected. Most certainly, all of human history is more interwoven than most can even conceive of. That being said, OF COURSE the biblical Mary is connected with Isis. The word “Meri” meaning “beloved”, or even “married”, is clearly a reference to the first known mother goddess of history. How can you possibly imagine that the Jews, who were an integral part of Egyptian formation and history, did not take those names (along with their meanings) with them? It would be ludicrous to assume otherwise. Mary is Isis in another form. She is the primaeval Mother & Lover & Companion, just as it has always been. She is an archetype, even if she was embodied in human flesh. ITS SO CLEAR. What are all of these overly intellectualized quibblings about? Why is this so hard for people to accept? All of Cristianity pretty much came out of Egypt. One myth has prevailed throughout all of time.

  14. Mary has no relation to Isis. Even the Egyptian Meri is not a reference to Isis. Plus about one third of Jewish women at that time were named Mary. Perhaps Jesus’ mother had that name because that was the most common name! As for Egyptian connections, I have examined them and they have all disappeared when the actual myths are studied rather than the summaries provided by the Jesus myth people.

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