In defence of D.M. Murdock's discussion in Christ in Egypt
about crucified Egyptian gods I think she does an interesting job of detailing the evidence for the various deities, especially with respect to Osiris, including the function of the djied cross or pillar, and early Christian interpretations of these -- pages 336 to 352.
I think this is interesting background information that should rightly be factored into any historical and literary analyses that considers the origins of the Gospel of John's miracle of the raising of Lazarus, Secret Mark and the stories of Alexandrian provenance.
But then on pages 353 to 356 it seems Murdock crashes head on into a brick wall by trying to overstate her case.
Or am I missing something that she has explained elsewhere to justify her argument?
We come to the heading "Divine Man" Crucified in Space
. Referring to Massey's discussion of the phrase "crucifixion in space" Murdock writes:
The crucifixion in space usually refers to that of Plato's "second God, who impressed himself on the universe in the form of the cross,"2 constituting the Greek philosopher's "world-soul" on an X, which, as we have seen, represents the sun crossing the ecliptic.. (p. 353)
I expected to see here the footnote directing me to Plato and his discussion of this "second God". But instead she takes us to Lundy, Bradshaw, Roberts, and Philo. That leaves me wondering where Plato speaks of "a second god" who made himself in the "form of a cross" at the ecliptic. My memory tells me that Plato did speak of the ecliptic being like a cross but no more. Have I forgotten crucial details? Murdock does not help me here.
Murdock then writes:
Another Platonic concept is the crucified "divine man"3 or "just man," found in Plato's Republic ...
Again I look up the footnote and am disappointed once again to find not a reference to where Plato speaks of the divine man but instead to an interpretation by Massey. My recollection was that Plato spoke of a just man but I don't recall him ever equating this just man with a divine man. My memory might well be faulty but again Murdock does not help me establish her idea.
Then on page 355 Murdock continues with:
Further elucidating upon the divine man, Albert Parsons remarks:
Plato spoke of a crucified divine man floating in space...."
Again no reference to Plato, only to Parsons. And when I look up Parsons more generally I see he appears to be more interested in spiritualism and such ideas than sound history.
DM Murdock was doing quite well, I thought, with cross symbolism in Egyptian culture but then left me with no way of verifying her claims that the Egyptians and Plato had the concept of a divine man in a cross formation in space. The closest evidence she seems to provide for the idea is in the Acts of John where Jesus is told to look towards the true cross of light in the sky. But that reads to me like a vision, not a pointer to the ecliptic.
This is just one instance of what I take to be Murdock's approach. Had she limited her discussion to what she had hard evidence for (and there are many illustrations making the point along with quotations of Church fathers etc) that are very suggestive then I think her work would have been all the stronger.
I think her attempts to go beyond the evidence and confuse interpretations with facts (explained by her evangelical interest as expressed in the front and end pages -- just like many religious scholars themselves do in their books) does her work serious damage. If an editor could see to major cuts throughout the book I think it could be a much stronger contribution to the Christ Myth debate.