Newly Discovered Egyptian Roots
Published 19 Dec 2016
NEWLY DISCOVERED EGYPTIAN ROOTS OF WESTERN THEOLOGY: A STOLEN LEGACY?
If anyone would look into the history of Christianity, one would always find a certain part of it with a taste of Egyptian culture and religion. One reason could be that it was an inevitable historical part of the Jewish history that they be influenced by Egyptian culture since Joseph, the son of Jacob has been brought to Egypt as a slave and then the story goes to end up having the Israelites enslaved by the Egyptians. Then came Moses who became an instrument of the God of the Israelites to free them from slavery as narrated in the second of the Old Testament of the Holy Bible-Exodus.
It is however a separate story and a controversial religious issue that Western or Christian Theology has been recently accused of stealing an Egyptian legacy. Decade after decade, Bible scholars and even skeptics have been uncovering some artifacts and other century old items and sites, which somehow suggest clues on the missing pieces of some religious puzzles. Furthermore, interested parties to prove and disprove claims and hypothesis previously believed or accepted and even displaced by others used such discoveries. One of these recent discoveries were some clues that suggest some direct relationship between Egyptian religious culture and that of the Christian religion. In particular, scholars claimed that Western or Christian theology has its roots from Egyptian theology.
Ahmed Osman, a well-known historian and scholar, who was made popular by his book, “Out of Egypt, The Roots of Christianity Revealed”, established the said connections through finding similarities of personalities and traditions in both religions. Because Egyptian culture is far older than Christianity, Osman could find it easy to make such conclusion that that there exist Egyptian roots in Christian theology. It is important to note that Christianity was established by Jesus Christ in the New Testament through Apostle Peter (The Rock). In Osman’s analysis, he made use of Akhenaten (Egypt) in comparison with Moses (Jews) and Tutankhamun (Egypt) and Joshua of the Israelites.
Before going deeper into the analysis of these personalities or religious icons, it is important that we first compare the religious traditions of both in order that we find it more logical to compare the personalities as instruments in making both religions popular. For example, let us look into the concepts of pinity and salvation in both. For the Egyptians, “salvation beliefs was the pine nature that was attributed to their king, who was looked upon as the human son of Ra, the cosmic god” (Osman, Ahmed). In their culture, the pinity of their god is shown in three events in its life: holy birth, anointing and coronation and the resurrection after death.
In the same way, Christian religion has the same pine revelation in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who was of a virgin birth and was anointed by God through the Holy Spirit in His Baptism. Jesus Christ, in the New Testament narratives, was crucified and died for the salvation of man. On the third day after His death, Jesus was resurrected and believed to rose to heaven to be with the Father. The difference however is that Egyptians believed that the spirit of the dead will go back to its well-preserved body. This is the very reason why Egyptians believed that King Osiris was restored to life in the underworld and became the god and the judge of the dead.
Contrary to this belief, Christians regarded the death of a person as final and his spirit and soul would go to his final destination-heaven or hell, at some point in time. In another aspect, successors of Osiris, which is called the Cult of Serapis, have similar concept of baptism or initiation rites with that of the Western religion. A well-known Egyptologist, Sir Alan Gardiner, considered such rite of Baptism in the cult as similar or analogous to Christian baptism. “In both cases a symbolic cleansing by means of water serves as initiation into a properly legitimated religious life” (Gardiner, Alan cited in Osman, Ahmed). It is important to note that the cult is already popular in Rome as early as 105 B.C. and so it could have really existed far earlier than Christianity.
“Serapis and Christ existed side-by-side and were frequently seen as interchangeable” (Osman, Ahmed). Osman was referring to the 2nd century A.D. when both religions existed and at some aspects of their worship practices, Christ and Serapis was, as he said, worshipped interchangeably. We can probably see such aspects in Roman Catholicism, especially on the symbols and images they used for worship. For example, Isis and her son Horus were evidently similar with the images found in Catholicism symbolizing Mary and infant Jesus. In the Egyptian version, Isis fled with the infant Horus when Isis (the father) was slain and then continued protecting the infant until he successfully became king of Egypt like his father.
In the Catholic version, Mary, who had a virgin birth of infant Jesus, also fled from the king who has been seeking to kill the child after knowing that it was going to be a King of all kings in the future. Mary however fled with his adopted father, Joseph and together with the guidance of the Holy Spirit from God, they were able to let the child grow and Jesus, although did not become the literally the King of all Kings were made famous and worshipped by the people all throughout the world. Scholars however insist that Isis passed her virtues to Mary which suggests that Mary was actually a younger version of Isis in the Catholic religion. “Isis personified laudable feminine virtues which she passed on to ‘Mary’. Like the Blessed Virgin, Isis succoured women in labour, showed mercy to the distressed, gave a ‘light’ to the dying, protected sailors, guarded chastity, and assured fertility and healing” (Le Gall, Dom Robert 1997).
The Holy Trinity, which is one of the well-known and believed to be a distinct feature of Western theology, was found to be not actually distinct and unique but was actually found in relation and rooted from Egyptian theology. Scholars have found that there is actually is an Egyptian version of the Father-Son-Holy Spirit Holy Trinity which is Isis-Osiris-Horus triad. “Throughout the 4000 years of Egyptian history every Pharaoh was the incarnation of the youthful Horus, and therefore the son of Isis, the Goddess Mother who had suckled and reared him” (R. E. Witt 1971, p.15). Witt concluded that that the elements in the triad, in both versions were inseparable and of one essence. The difference however was that the Egyptian version considered the concept of continuous metamorphosis of Horus and that every Pharaoh in Egypt was considered a representation of Horus.
The similarities of the Horus myth and the Biblical version Jesus and His mother Mary, had been the solid basis of some to firmly assess that Western theology had its foundation in Egyptian religious tradition. In fact, one scholar suggests that Horus myth is an inevitable part of understanding early Christianity. “The works of art, the ideas, the expressions, and the heresies of the first four centuries of the Christian era cannot be well studied without a right comprehension of the nature and influence of the Horus myth”(Cooper,W.R. p.49).
Egyptian religion also found similarities with Biblical personalities like Moses, Joshua and Jesus. Moses was seen as a resemblance of the Egyptian Akhenaten and Joshua as Tutankhamun. Osman however believed that Jesus was just a New Testament leader version of Joshua, the leader of the Israelites in the Old Testament who succeeded Moses. In the same way, Akhenaten is known to have been succeeded to the throne by Tutankhamun. “Having a solid basis for associating Moses and Akhenaten, it therefore becomes logical and necessary to at least consider a potential relationship between Jesus/Joshua, the protégé of Moses, and Tutankhamun, the successor of Akhenaten” (Osman, Ahmed).
The legacy of the said Egyptian icons and Biblical personalities were also regarded the same by scholars. For example, Pope have seen that “the leaders Akhenaten (Moses) and Tutankhamun (Joshua) we have the timeless conflict of totalitarianism vs. liberalism, legalism vs. compromise, purity of religion vs. tolerance, faith vs. works, love vs. fear, unity vs. persity, etc., etc.) that was later reconciled in Christian dualism as fulfillment of the Law of Moses through the Grace and Truth of Jesus” (Pope, Charles). It is maybe justifiable for one author to conclude that “the religion of the Pharaohs was recast in Christian form – theology, iconology and the whole glorious paraphernalia of priest craft” (Cantor, Norman 1994).
Despite several but significant differences in the Egyptian religion with that of the Western religion, scholars, especially Osman, insisted that Christianity is not an original religion as established by Jesus Christ through his Apostle Peter but was rooted from the Egyptian religious culture. After presenting the analysis of some scholars relative to the resemblance of both religions we can initially conclude that both religions are interrelated and one can even believe that the Western theology has its roots in the older Egyptian religion.
This writer however believes that it is not right to regard the religious differences as negligible parts of the historical and doctrinal analysis. This is primarily because the difference in doctrines as so important that it makes each religion unique and distinct and therefore renders each separate and does not have any relationship at all. It is not simply logical to conclude that things of similarities are regarded as having relationship such as one is rooted or a descendant of the other. Religious traditions are not similar to taxonomy that classifies according to similar features. It is therefore this writer’s prerogative to say and firmly believes that each religion are unique and distinct and does not at all have any connection aside from the fact that historical instances related Israel to Egypt in slavery. Therefore, there is no stolen legacy on both religions.
- Cantor, Norman (1994). The Sacred Chain – A History of The Jews. Harper Collins.
- Cooper, W.R. The Horus Myth in Its Relation to Christianity.
- Le Gall, Dom Robert (1997). Symbols of Catholicism. Editions Assouline.
- Osman, Ahmed (2000). Out of Egypt: History Reborn. Retrieved December 19, 2007
- Pope, Charles N. Out Of Egypt, The Roots Of Christianity Revealed. Review of Ahmed Osman’s Out Of Egypt. Retrieved December 19, 2007
- Witt, R.E. (1971). Isis In The Ancient World. John Hopkins UP.