The points of contact between Judaism and the reli X gion of Babylonia have frequently been mentioned by numerous writers, but the traces of Egyptian mythology in both Jewish and Christian Scriptures have not been so much noticed,2 nor could they be till quite lately. It is only within the last few decades that students have been sufficiently well provided with mythological texts and com mentaries to be in possession of the necessary material, thanks to the labors of Birch, von Bergmann, von Bissing, Breasted, Brugsch, Budge, Chabas, Devria, Grbaut, Guieysse, de Horrack, Jquier, Lanzone, Ledrain, Lef bure, Legrain, Lieblein, Mariette, Maspero, Moret, Na ville, Piehl, Pierret, Pleyte, Renouf, Sharpe, Spiegelberg, Wiedemann and others.Order now
The relationship of Egyptian mythology to Jewish religion is too large a subject to dis cuss fully; haec peritioribus relinquo; so I only mention a few traces of Egyptian influence in the Old Testament, but there are many others. I will then point out the more numerous Egyptian touches in the New Testament. (i) In Gen. i. i, God is represented as having created the heaven and the earth. How He did this is not stated, but the narrative does go on to say how light was created,(verse 3) namely, by the Divine Voice; “God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” This formula “God said” is repeated at each subsequent act of creation, all of which acts are described as being performed by the Divine Voice. Here certainly we seem to get an echo of the ancient Egyptian maat kheru, or maa kheru, power, the creative power of the divine voice, an epithet usually placed after the name of the deceased who became a god, and inadequately translated “true of voice.”
This voice re-appears in St. John’s Gospel as the Logos (Word), Chapter i. 3, “All things were made by him.” The great demiurgic gods of Egypt, as well as the beati fied deceased had the power of uttering creative words. M. Moret has shown3 that the goddess Maat is assimilated to the eye of Horus (the sun), and represents light. Her symbol, the ostrich feather, is read shu, “light.” The gods created the world by a luminous emission from their eyes and a sonorous emission of their voice. Thus light created reality. The offering of Maat to the god by the priest-king, a ritualistic scene very commonly portrayed and of the highest importance, is to give the god all which really lives ; it is to put him in possession of all the material reality which he himself created and is not of an ethical significance. In fact, it is to offer the god to himself, an idea common to religions.
“Men came from Horus’ two eyes; the Dr. Breasted in his article in The Open Court, 1903, “The Philosophy of a Memphite Priest,” commenting on the cosmological slab in the British Museum, sums up the Egyptian philosophical conception of the world thus: “Assuming matter, all things first exist ideally in the mind; speech or its medium, the tongue, constitutes the channel, as it were, by which these ideas pass into the world of objective reality.” M. Maspero in a review of the same slab writes, “Things and beings ‘said inside/ (i. e., thought), only exist potentially; in order for them to reach real existence it is necessary for the tongue to speak them ‘outside,’ and to solemnly proclaim their names. Nothing exists before having received its name out loud.” This conception of producing existence by the voice is excess- ively ancient and is found in the Pyramid texts. It is remarkable that the Egyptian name of Joseph, Gen. xli. 45, Zaphnath-paaneah, “The god spake, and he lives,” seems to embody the tradition of creation by the divine voice. It is a well-known type of name, not ancient, used in the XXVIth Dynasty; Krall was the first to point out in 1886 the connection of Zaphnath-paaneah with this type of name. We find various gods’ names used, but all the deities are of the first rank. Thus we have,4 “Horus spake, and he lives”; “Isis spake, and he lives”; Mut spake, and she lives,” (woman’s name); “Menthu spake, and she lives,” (woman’s name; and similarly compounded names with Amen, with Ptah, Thoth, Khonsu, Bast and Anher or Onouris, (a form of Shu). (2) Genesis i. 5, “And the evening and the morning were the first day.” The night also preceded the day in Egyptian cosmog ony. “Turn, Osiris, Sokar, Tanen and Har-ur, who sym bolized the setting sun, are anterior to the rising sun.gods were made manifest by his mouth.”
“Gods are manifested when he (the demiurgic god) speaks.” The word is made flesh according to the Egyptians by the assimilation of the sepulchral meal or offering (per kheru) to what comes out of the mouth of the god. There fore the words maat kheru or maa kheru mean to have a creative voice like the gods, and it does not mean merely “true of voice” as usually translated. Dr. Breasted in his article in The Open Court, 1903, “The Philosophy of a Memphite Priest,” commenting on the cosmological slab in the British Museum, sums up the Egyptian philosophical conception of the world thus: “Assuming matter, all things first exist ideally in the mind; speech or its medium, the tongue, constitutes the channel, as it were, by which these ideas pass into the world of objective reality.” M. Maspero in a review of the same slab writes, “Things and beings ‘said inside/ (i. e., thought), only exist potentially; in order for them to reach real existence it is necessary for the tongue to speak them ‘outside,’ and to solemnly proclaim their names. Nothing exists before having received its name out loud.”
This conception of producing existence by the voice is excess- ively ancient and is found in the Pyramid texts. It is remarkable that the Egyptian name of Joseph, Gen. xli. 45, Zaphnath-paaneah, “The god spake, and he lives,” seems to embody the tradition of creation by the divine voice. It is a well-known type of name, not ancient, used in the XXVIth Dynasty; Krall was the first to point out in 1886 the connection of Zaphnath-paaneah with this type of name. We find various gods’ names used, but all the deities are of the first rank. Thus we have,4 “Horus spake, and he lives”; “Isis spake, and he lives”; Mut spake, and she lives,” (woman’s name); “Menthu spake, and she lives,” (woman’s name; and similarly compounded names with Amen, with Ptah, Thoth, Khonsu, Bast and Anher or Onouris, (a form of Shu). (2) Genesis i. 5,
“And the evening and the morning were the first day.” The night also preceded the day in Egyptian cosmog ony. “Turn, Osiris, Sokar, Tanen and Har-ur, who sym bolized the setting sun, are anterior to the rising sun. Hathor, the receptacle of the nocturnal sun, brings forth the rising sun.” (3) The formula, often used in the Bible (Neh. ix. 6) “Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein” , and (Ps. cxlvi. 6) “Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is”… , and (Is. xxxvii. 16) “Thou hast made heaven and earth”; Acts xiv, 15, and Rev. xiv. 7, have almost the same as that in the well-known hymn to Osiris, “He has made this earth with his hand”—another version of the creation—“its waters, atmosphere, vegetation, cattle and all birds, all fish, and creeping things.”
A more elaborate parallel is found in a hymn to the Divinity of the time of Rameses IX, published and trans lated by M. Pierret: “God, who has suspended the heaven and causes his disk to sail in the bosom of Nut, and guides it in the bosom of Nut, in his name of Ra; he has formed gods and men and all their generations; he has created all countries, both soil and liquid element, in his name of Creator of the world; he has brought water from its source; he gives growth to nutritive plants and produces the nourishment which proceeds from them, in his name of Nu ; he gives movement to the waters of the sky; he makes the water fall on the tops of the mountains, in order to make men live, in his name of Author of Life”… Again, in a hieratic papyrus in the Cairo Museum we read in a hymn to Amen-Ra, that he is “Maker of grass for the cattle….of fruitful trees for men, causing the fish to live in the river, the birds to fill the air; giving health to those in the egg; feeding the bird that flies; giving food to the bird that perches; to the creeping thing and the flying thing equally; providing food for the rats in their holes,”
…. In fact so persistent is this very ancient form of ad- dress to the Almighty that it is even found in an Egyptian Christian prayer of the third or fourth century0 (in Greek), “O God Almighty who hast made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, help me, pity me, wipe out my sins, save me now, and in the future age, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, through whom is glory and power, for ever and ever, Amen.” In the Book of the Secrets of Enoch, which Dr. Charles says was written in Egypt, Enoch teaches his sons not to worship “vain gods who did not make heaven and earth.” (4) Exodus. At the Provincial Congress held at Lyons, 1878, M. Lieblein approximates Yahveh to the Egyptian god Khepera. These are his arguments: “The Hebrews did not know Yahveh before the time of Moses; Khepera was a Heliopolitan god, and Moses received his education at Heliopolis and is called by Manetho ‘the Heliopolitan Priest’; the name of the god Khepera means ‘to exist,’ ‘he who is,’ and the name Yahveh has the same signification, ‘he who is.’ M. Lieblein also gives an illus tration of the arrangement of the interior of the Egyptian ark on the processional boat, which is precisely similar to that of the Hebrew ark, as described in Ex. xxv. 20-22. (5) In Neh. ix. 6, the oneness of God is insisted on; “Thou, even thou, art God alone.”
This also is paralleled in a hymn to Amen – Ra which uses these expressions, “Form unique; maker of all things which are; the one who is alone; producer of existences; numerous are his names.” Beautiful things are said of the Divine Creator by the ancient Egyptians. “What is, is in his fist; what is not is in his side”; “He traverseth eternity”; “You cannot see him”; “Thy rays are from a face which is not known”; “He is for ever”; “He has spread out the heavens, and put the earth underneath”; “Great God of primaeval time.” We do not call the Egyptians monotheists, but heno theists; they were capable of thinking of one god at a time, and so making him the only one for the time being. (6) Job xxix. 6. “When I washed my steps in butter.” At the Congress of the French Orientalists held at St. Etienne, 1875, Dr. A. Wiedemann remarked that the whole Book of Job displays an Egyptian influence. He refers especially to the Egyptian touch in this passage.
The English translation “butter” is, according to Gese nius, better translated “milk.” This too makes better sense. On a stele in the Egyptian museum of Florence, we read, “may Isis give you milk, so that you may wash your feet on the silver stone and the pavement of tur quoise.” Dr. Wiedemann notices that while this expres sion (to wash your feet in milk) in Job’s mouth only means a state of happiness, it had a religious significance in an cient Egypt. Owing to the soiling of the feet by the earth, the skin of the soles was removed after death, and the wound washed in milk, as if the deceased were alive.
The “silver stone and the pavement of turquoise” doubtless formed the floor of the Hall of Justice, though unfortu nately we do not possess a detailed account of it. Besides these remarks of Dr. Wiedemann, an interesting com- parison may be made of the same chapter of Job, verses 11-17, and a portion of the hieroglyphs on the sarcophagus of Unnefer, a royal scribe and priest (published by Karl Piehl, and nowr in the Cairo museum). I give the text in English, from Karl Piehl’s translation in French of the hieroglyphs: “When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me. Because I de livered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness and it clothed me: my judgment was a robe and a diadem. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor, and the cause which I knew not I searched out. And I brake the jaws of the wicked and plucked the spoil out of his teeth.” Unnefer after invoking the gods is made to say,“ I am a man devoted to his father, the favorite of his mother, the friend of his brothers. I have not done what ye (the gods) hate on earth.
Give me bread in the city of eternity, and water in the perfect land which is in Neferkhert. For I am a man by my actions,( ?) I am true of heart, without weakness; kindhearted, obeying God’s will. I am a favor ite in my city, a benefactor of my country, mild towards every one. I am a man of vigorous build, of fine counte nance, amiable and contented. I am courageous in the moment of distress, gentle of speech, perfect in words. I am a fertile region to him who is in poverty, and every one has confidence in me. I have entered the way of moderation. I am efficacious in my words, wise in counsel; a good guide. I protect the weak against the strong, so as to facilitate the passage of everybody. I am a perfect noble, doing the will of the gods. I am the friend of my comrades. I am a liberal man to the poor, without boasting of what I have given. I am the friend of truth, the enemy of lies, a man who knows what God has for bidden” … This diffuse, childlike description of a good man com pares as regards morality very favorably with Job’s lit erary, worked-up, more artificial expressions—Unnefer’s sayings are of a milder character than Job’s. There is nothing in them about breaking the jaws of the wicked.
He is also on his guard not to boast of what he has given, which Job certainly does. Though Unnefer’s sarcophagus is of late date, the ideas he uses are very ancient. (7) Ps. cxi. 10. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” See also Job xxviii. 28, Prov. i. 7 and ix. 10. This is very like “The beginning of wisdom is the way of Amen,” a sentence which occurs in a hymn to Amen in the Anastasi Papyrus in the British Museum. Literally it is “The beginning of wisdom is the water of Amen.” The Nile was the great highway, hence “the water” was used to signify “the way,” i. e., “will, command, or rule.”8 (8) Ezekiel (xviii. 7) in his description of the just man says, “He hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment.”—The just man (according to Egyptian religion as recorded in Chapter CXXV of the Book of the Dead) who has been purified after death in the Hall of Maat, also says that he has given “bread to the hungry; water to the thirsty; clothes to the naked; a boat to the shipwrecked.
” The boat, so indispensable to a dweller on the Nile, but absolutely useless to a Jew, with the dried-up river courses of his native land, has disappeared in Ezekiel’s list. Ezekiel has been called a “literary” prophet, and he was essentially a “scholar”; so it is not surprising that his imagination should have been tinged with foreign ideas and expres sions, as we also see in his vision. I refer to this latter when commenting on Revelations. As regards the Egyptian analogies in the Gospels, I have already mentioned the connection of the Logos (word) of St. John with the Egyptian maat kheru power. The virgin birth is paralleled in the details of the birth of Amenhotep III depicted on the walls of the temple of Amen at Luxor, where, among other scenes, Amenhotep’s mother, Mut-m-ua, is represented listening to Thoth, the master of divine words.’ The innumerable figurines of Isis suckling the infant Horus are too well known to require a detailed account of them. The blood of Isis is mentioned in Chapter CLVI of the Book of the Dead as a protection to the deceased, and her amulet, called the buckle is very common, and
often made of red jasper, or of carnelian, to represent the color of blood. It is in Revelations that so many Egyptian traits oc cur, as well as in the book of Ezekiel, and the Egyptian element in both may have caused the difficulty of getting these works into the canon. Whoever wrote the Apoca lypse seems to have been a Christianized Jew, acquainted probably with the Book of the Dead and with the sym bolism engraved on Egyptian scarabs.