Response to a Defense of Zeitgeist: The Sun/Son Canard
Next in D. M. Murdock’s list of ten “myths” about the religion section of the film Zeitgeist is the claim that the words “sun” and “son” aren’t cognate in English. This immediately strikes one as odd since the statement is true – they are not cognate in English. What she actually intended to state as a myth is that the film ever claimed the sun/son connection (as in “Sun of God” vs. “Son of God”) was significant. As we shall see, in this she is also wrong.
This dispute centers on critics of Zeitgeist pointing out that the film used the term “God’s Sun” to make a connection to Jesus as “God’s Son.” The reason for laughter was obvious: the film drew upon the existence of the homophones “sun” and “son” for such a connection but this correspondence only existed in modern English – a language that did not exist in antiquity. This particular example quickly became “Exhibit A” for Christian apologists that the film was ridiculous.
This was a point where the film’s defenders simply could not possibly mount any defense for the claim itself – the absurdity of it was obvious, once explained, to even novices on the subject. Thus, rather than defend it, backers of the film began making excuses. The most common of these is that the whole thing was only used as a pun and was not meant to be taken seriously. This is the defense supplied in the source guide released after the embarrassing criticism and this remains by far the prevalent response by the film’s supporters. However, when the earliest version of the film and its sources are examined, this evasion collapses on all fronts.
When Zeitgeist was first released, Peter Joseph credited the conspiracy theorist Jordan Maxwell as its primary inspiration. Maxwell is notorious for his laughable etymologies that attempt to make connections between pagan and Biblical terms using words in modern English. Some of these, including connecting “Horus” to “hours”, “Set” to “Sunset”, and “God’s Sun” to “God’s Son” made it to the original version of Zeitgeist. While most of this sort of nonsense was scrubbed from later versions of the film, the “God’s Sun” expression appeared at numerous key junctures and would have required a complete reworking. Thus, instead the film had some minor tweaking (e.g., changing the explicit “it was called God’s Sun” to the more ambiguous “God’s Sun”) and the excuse mentioned above was issued.
It is also interesting to note that Joseph was not alone in such silliness. In the 1990s, Jordan Maxwell cast a large shadow until even most Jesus mythicists realized that his “research” was dubious at best. Murdock, in her early books, was far more dependent upon the material, such as that of Maxwell, circulating in conspiracy theorist circles. In fact, much of what appears in The Christ Conspiracy overlaps with Maxwell’s brand of nonsense from the same period. It appears that the “God’s Sun” debacle was among them.
For example, while the recent source guide eschewed any connection between “God’s Sun” and “God’s Son”:
Concerning the “son-sun” play on words – which is not a cognate but a mere happy coincidence in English …
her comments years before in Suns of God reflected the opposite view:
Thus the English word “son” is not a false cognate with “sun,” and it is truthfully said that the “son of god” is the “sun of god.”
Hence, while today she states that “son” and “sun” is not a cognate, she earlier stated the truthfulness of the cognate. So it appears Peter Joseph is not the only one who backpedaled on this issue.
In the older quote by Murdock, her source was someone named Jacob Bryant. Mr. Bryant was considered a fine scholar in his day, but his day was the latter half of the eighteenth century. Citing a contemporary of George Washington is questionable enough, but it gets stranger when you read Bryant’s argument.
Bryant claimed Noah’s son Ham was worshiped as, among others, the Greek Zeus and the Egyptian Amun. Constructing etymologies that would make even Jordan Maxwell blush, he argued that Egyptian priests had the title “sonchin” or “son-cohen” or “priests of the sun.” He derived this via a tradition of Pythagoras being a pupil of an Egyptian priest named Sonches. He then assumed what was clearly a proper name to be a title, conjugated from it the form sonchin, assumed this was a compound of two words “son” and “chin,” assumed “chin” had an etymological connection to the Hebrew “cohen” (priest), assumed the Egyptians were part of a pan-Aryan ruling culture spread throughout the ancient world, and then concluded “son” had an etymological connection to the English “sun” through this Aryan connection. Needless to say, this imaginative exercise carried little weight with anyone aside from Bryant and Murdock. That is, until she changed her mind and decided “sun” and “son” were not really cognate after all.
One can perhaps forgive Bryant for his wild etymological explorations at a time when such silliness was far more common than today. However, since someone writing before the Rosetta Stone was deciphered was not in any position to know what the Egyptians called anything, Murdock’s odd willingness to use such obviously questionable material to support her thesis further undermines her credibility in conducting proper research.
Perhaps Murdock can argue that she was ignorant of the film’s earlier faults. As I stated before, she is not responsible for Peter Joseph’s blunders. However, once she has gone on record with Joseph as stating neither ever held the connection as significant, then both must be called on the carpet as engaging once more in historical revisionism to cover up past errors. Thus, the pattern continues …