The following is an excerpt written by John MacArthur:

In the ancient world a mystery was a sacred secret known only to initiates and sometimes only to upper level religionists. The system of mystery religions began in ancient Babylon and spread in various forms to every part of the civilized world. A influential Greek philosophical system of New Testament times was called gnosticism, a name derived from gnōsis, which means knowledge. Gnostics considered themselves the ones “in the know” as far as philosophical matters were concerned.

In ancient Egypt a popular religious mystery involved the mythical god Osiris and his goddess wife Isis. Osiris was a wise and benevolent king who was persuaded by his wicked brother Seth to come to a banquet, where, with the help of seventy-two co-conspirators, Seth placed the king in a coffin and threw him into the Nile River to drown. Osiris was rescued by Isis and brought home; but when Seth discovered his brother was alive, he went to the palace and cut Osiris into fourteen pieces, which he shipped to fourteen far-separated locations throughout Egypt. After Isis managed to collect all the pieces of his body, Osiris miraculously restored himself to life; and from the time of his “resurrection” he became the immortal king of both the living and the dead.

Although the story itself was fascinating to anyone who heard it, its deeper meanings were known only to initiates of the Osiris and Isis cults. For them each person and incident in the story had special significance. For example, Osiris represented all good and was attacked by Seth, who represented all evil. The unrelenting devotion of Isis represented the redemptive and triumphal power of love. The ultimate secret, or mystery, was the formula, “I am thou, and thou art I,” which, when spoken to Osiris, would place the worshiper in eternal union with that god.

Similar attitudes of exclusiveness and concepts of mystery are seen in modern secret societies, whose most important rituals and principles are known only to members, and sometimes only to the highest ranking leaders.

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