The Phoenix Rising from Its Ashes
It gives us a clue as to the reality of the Risen Christ. The phoenix is a legend of mythic proportions.
Does that make it ‘fake’ news? No. But it does put us back to basics when we try to discuss resurrection. What most people don’t realize is that ‘resurrection’ was the word that most ancient people interpreted as ‘reincarnation’.
The modern English word phoenix enters the English language from Latin, later reinforced by French. The word first enters the English language by way of a borrowing of Latin phoenīx into Old English (fenix). This borrowing was later reinforced by French influence, which had also borrowed the Latin noun. In time, the word developed specialized use in the English language: For example, the term could refer to an “excellent person” (12th century), a variety of heraldic emblem (15th century), and the name of a constellation (17th century).
The Latin word comes from Greek φοῖνιξ phoinīx. The Greek word is first attested in the Mycenaean Greek po-ni-ke, which probably meant ‘griffin‘, though it might have meant ‘palm tree’. That word is probably a borrowing from a West Semitic word for madder, a red dye made from Rubia tinctorum. The word Phoenician appears to be from the same root, meaning ‘those who work with red dyes’. So phoenix may mean ‘the Phoenician bird’ or ‘the purplish-red bird’Etymology (from Wikipedia)
“[The Egyptians] have also another sacred bird called the phoenix which I myself have never seen, except in pictures. Indeed it is a great rarity, even in Egypt, only coming there (according to the accounts of the people of Heliopolis) once in five hundred years, when the old phoenix dies. Its size and appearance, if it is like the pictures, are as follow: The plumage is partly red, partly golden, while the general make and size are almost exactly that of the eagle. They tell a story of what this bird does, which does not seem to me to be credible: that he comes all the way from Arabia, and brings the parent bird, all plastered over with myrrh, to the temple of the Sun, and there buries the body. In order to bring him, they say, he first forms a ball of myrrh as big as he finds that he can carry; then he hollows out the ball and puts his parent inside, after which he covers over the opening with fresh myrrh, and the ball is then of exactly the same weight as at first; so he brings it to Egypt, plastered over as I have said, and deposits it in the temple of the Sun. Such is the story they tell of the doings of this bird.” (Herodotus)
Thus when Sophia Zoe saw that the rulers of darkness had laid a curse upon her counterparts, she was indignant. And coming out of the first heaven with full power, she chased those rulers out of their heavens and cast them into the sinful world, so that there they should dwell, in the form of evil spirits upon the earth.On the Origin of the World (Gnostic Gospel)
[…], so that in their world it might pass the thousand years in paradise—a soul-endowed living creature called “phoenix”. It kills itself and brings itself back to life as a witness to the judgement against them, for they did wrong to Adam and his race, unto the consummation of the age. There are […] three men, and also his posterities, unto the consummation of the world: the spirit-endowed of eternity, and the soul-endowed, and the earthly. Likewise, there are three phoenixes in paradise—the first is immortal, the second lives 1,000 years; as for the third, it is written in the sacred book that it is consumed. So, too, there are three baptisms—the first is spiritual, the second is by fire, the third is by water. Just as the phoenix appears as a witness concerning the angels, so the case of the water hydri in Egypt, which has been a witness to those going down into the baptism of a true man. The two bulls in Egypt posses a mystery, the Sun and the Moon, being a witness to Sabaoth: namely, that over them Sophia received the universe; from the day that she made the Sun and Moon, she put a seal upon her heaven, unto eternity. And the worm that has been born out of the phoenix is a human being as well. It is written concerning it, “the just man will blossom like a phoenix”. And the phoenix first appears in a living state, and dies, and rises again, being a sign of what has become apparent at the consummation of the age.
So, just to be correct, the story of the Phoenix Rising became a motif for the Eternal Christ (a Gnostic concept). In order for ordinary folk (early Christians) to accept his ‘specialness’, Jesus had to rise from the dead. They didn’t know it was a retelling of an ancient legend.