It's easy to understand.
Those who claim that Isis was not a virgin when Horus was born claim so because she wasn't.
Those who claim that Isis was indeed a virgin when she gave birth to Horus claim so because she was.
How is it possible? They can't both be right can they?
Yes, they can. Myths have variants. Sometimes these variants can even run concurrently, with one version not necessarily being any more "canonical" than the other.
To illustrate this particular point, as historian Elizabeth Vandiver states in her lectures for The Teaching Company-
"Once a version of a myth is written down, it's fixed, there it is. And we, literate people, have a strong tendency to assume that that means that version is somehow the myth, the real myth, the only way the myth was ever told. But that's not how traditional tales work, in any oral setting.
I can give a clear example of what I mean by this. Everyone knows the story of Oedipus the King, how he killed his father, married his mother, without knowing who they were. When he discovered the terrible thing that he had done, after his mother hanged herself Oedipus blinded himself, went into exile, never returned home to Thebes again, right?
Well, right according to Sophocles, who wrote the play "Oedipus the King". In homer, in "The Odyssey", there's a very brief reference to Oedipus which agrees that yes, he killed his father and married his mother. Yes, his mother killed herself after the truth came out, but Oedipus, says Homer, continued to rule in Thebes many years thereafter.
Which is the "real" version of the Oedipus myth?
THEY BOTH ARE.
Sophocles version dominates our understanding of the myth because it is such a marvelous play, and because it's so famous. And this is the kind of thing we have to guard against. Often we have only one version of a myth. We have to remember there probably were others.
Occasionally a work of art preserves what is clearly a very different version from the only ones known to us by literature. There's a beautiful classical Greek painting, vase painting, of a character who is quite clearly Jason, Jason who got the golden fleece, after his voyage on the Argo.
The golden fleece is there on a tree behind Jason, the tree is guarded by a dragon. All of those elements point to the fact that this is very clearly Jason, and yet, in this painting, the dragon is either swallowing Jason, or spitting him back out again. Jason is halfway out of the dragon's mouth. His arms and head are visible outside the dragon's mouth.
In no written version of Jason's story that has survived for us, does the dragon eat Jason, or attempt to eat Jason. The whole point is that Jason is helped by Medea, who gives him magic potion so that he can overcome the dragon without being eaten. If this case painting had not survived, we would not know that there had ever been a variant in which Jason was eaten by the dragon. Because we have the painting, we know this variant existed, but that's all we know about it. We have no written description of that version of Jason's story."
There were different versions of the same characters, and even when in contradiction, they were not viewed as antithetical, but rather, more like different selections on a buffet. So to bring this point back around to Horus, here is an informative statement from Egyptologist Edmund S. Meltzer-
"The roles, local cult foundations, and titles or epithets of Horus are sometimes correlated with distinct or preferred forms in iconography: for example the falcon, the falcon headed man, the winged disk, and the child with a side-lock(sometimes in his mother's arms). Egyptologists therefore often speak of distinct, sometimes originally distinct, Horuses or Horus-gods.
Combinations, identifications, and differentiations were, however, possible for Horus, and they are COMPLIMENTARY RATHER THAN ANTITHETICAL. A judicious examination of the various Horuses and the sources relating to them supports the possibility that the roles in question are closely interrelated, and so they may be understood as different aspects, or facets, OF THE SAME DIVINE PERSONA."- The Ancient Gods Speak: A Guide to Egyptian Religion
So, yes, there are SOME
versions of the story in which Isis is explicitly depicted as having sexual intercourse with Osiris to conceive Horus, such as in the Pyramid Texts which state Isis is upon the phallus of Osiris, receiving his seed, but in the form of Sothis, which is significant, as I shall explain later.
Or in the narrative recorded by Plutarch, he has Isis & Osiris gettin' it on in their momma's womb and Isis giving birth to Horus the Elder, while they were all still inside the womb, and in another version Plutarch says Isis made a golden phallus to replace Osiris's missing one, and used magic to impregnate herself.
However, and this gets to more directly answering your question, there are other versions in which Isis is clearly being indicated as a virgin at the conception of Horus and even after his birth.
The most blatantly indisputable one being the text in the Bremner-Rhind Papyrus called "The Festival Songs of Isis and Nephthys", which is a hymnal type ritual to be performed during the holidays of Osiris's death & resurrection. The songs are lamentation songs mourning the death of Osiris and pleading for him to 'return to his temple', i.e., to come back to life. The papyrus explicitly orders that Isis & Nephthys are to be portrayed as two virgins whose wombs have never been opened. So that's clear and undeniable. But the real kicker, is that when we read the songs we find out that Horus has already been born. So if Isis is a virgin whose womb has never been opened, yet she already has a son named Horus who will succeed Osiris, then clearly, Horus was born of a virgin.
Now, this text was from the Ptolemaic period of Egypt, dated to around 312 B.C. or so according to the translator, Egyptologist Raymond O. Faulkner.
So, an obstinate xian apologist might argue that Isaiah 7:14 still predates this papyrus. Well, while Isaiah 7:14 comes with its own host of problems, that's fine either way, because we can go back a little earlier, to around 1200 b.c., give or take. In the temple of Seti I at Abydos there are the ruins of a wall which depict Isis saying "I am the great virgin". On this same wall we see pictures of Horus, already born, and already fully grown. So clearly, if Horus is already born & grown, yet Isis is a virgin, then Horus had a virgin birth. Now, for this one, the typical apologetic excuse is to try and do the very thing they hate for us skeptic to do to Isaiah 7:14, and that is, analyze the original language and the accuracy of translation. But unlike our objections to Isaiah 7:14, this translation of the text from Abydos actually holds up to scrutiny. There is not a single scholar I have ever found, in English, who has ever translated this particular text from Abydos as anything other than "virgin". They are all unanimous in translating it as "great virgin". Plus, there are a load of other arguments apologists have tried to levy against this passage as well, and so far ALL of them have been crushed by our friend GodAlmighty over on the Freethoughtnation forum, when a little infamous internet apologist known as KingDavid8 made the mistake of thinking he knew anything about this subject, and instead got his ass whooped, and ran away with his tail between his legs and burned the bridge behind him(i.e., he removed the link to the thread from his website so that his readers hopefully wouldn't find it). The excuses he tried and the refutations for every one of them are much too lengthy and numerous to go into again here, so I will simply provide the link to said thread for you to read on your own time. It may get tedious, but it is worth it- freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic. ... amp;t=3206
Now, even if the previous two primary sources weren't enough(which they are
), that's fine, we can go back even earlier, to the ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts, written during the First Intermediate period to the Middle Kingdom period, which is approximately from 2055 BC to around 1650 BC. In these spells, specifically number 148, Isis is described as being impregnated with Horus, not by sex with Osiris, but instead...
by a bolt a lightning. And the translator, the aforementioned late great Raymond O. Faulkner, wrote two peer reviewed articles explaining that this was indeed a non-sexual conception, just like that of the Apis bull(a form of Osiris, btw) described by Herodotus and several other myths with this recurring motif of impregnation by lightning or a flash from the sky.
And so here we have the same Egyptologist translating for us a text that three centuries before Christ stated that Isis is a virgin whose womb has never been opened in spite of being the mother of Horus, and then the same Egyptologist telling us that in an even earlier text which predates even the Old Testament, that Isis was impregnated with Horus by a bolt of lightning.
Now, getting back to the even earlier Pyramid Texts which I mentioned a moment ago, which were written during the Old Kingdom period, and describe Isis receiving the seed of Osiris from his phallus, even that text says she did so as Sothis. Now, who is Sothis? Sothis is the star Sirius. Sothis is also the 'Ba' of Isis. Now, explaining the concept of the Egyptian Ba is a little a complex. People used to think of it as the Egyptian counterpart to our idea of a "soul", but the evidence doesn't bear that out, so that idea has more or less been dropped. It is one of the constituent parts of a person, so to speak, but the point is, it is NOT the biological body. Now to read more about the Ba, and for a statement that Sothis is in fact the Ba of Isis, you can read "A Study of the Ba Concept in Ancient Egyptian Texts" by Egyptologist Lois V. Zabkar, which you can download here- oi.uchicago.edu/research/pubs/catalog/s ... aoc34.html
. On a side note, it is also a great work explaining that the resurrection of Osiris and the pharaohs was indeed expected to be a literal, physical, bodily resurrection and not an alleged "spiritual" resurrection as the old 19th century writers mistakenly believed and that xian apologists still rehash regardless.
Anyway, this is all significant because even in this explicitly sexual conception of Horus in what are the earliest religious texts we have from Egypt(as stated by James P. Allen in the intro to his translation), even in this obviously sexual conception, it is still not sex with their biological bodies, but instead, sex with the Ba of Isis, which is Sothis. Zabkar also explains this in his book, that one of the main functions of the Ba was to have intercourse in place of the deceased. Interesting, because that's exactly the case here, Osiris is deceased. So even in this version of Horus's conception, even though sex is the mechanism, it is not sex with Isis's biological body, it is sex with her Ba, so her body remains untouched, and if she is a virgin, then her hymen remains intact. Now, the Pyramid Texts do not state whether Isis was still a virgin at this point or not, but it is very interesting that such a plot device is used that keeps her body from actually performing the sex. So even if she was not yet understood to be a virgin mother at this early point, we can see how this plot device is what most likely lead to later generations progressively further developing this aspect of the myth into what finally became the virgin birth of Horus. Especially since her Ba, Sothis, is the star Sirius, in the sky
, and in the Coffin Text version, Isis is impregnated by lightning from the sky
. So here we can sort of see the this evolution towards Isis becoming explicitly a virgin mother:
Old Kingdom period - Isis's Ba has sex with Osiris in her place in order to conceive Horus.
Middle Kingdom period - Isis is impregnated by a bolt of lightning to conceive Horus.
New Kingdom period - Isis calls herself "the Great Virgin" even after her son Horus is already born & full grown.
Ptolemaic Period - Isis is explicitly depicted as a virgin whose womb has never been opened, even though Horus has already been born at this point.
There's other things we can go into as well, and other scholarly quotes that support this, but I think I've shown enough to clearly establish the point, plus I don't want to give away everything, since you should really read Murdock's book. You'll be glad you did.