The Religions of Ancient Egypt and Babylonia: The Gifford Lectures on the Ancient Egyptian and Babylonian Conception of the Divine Delivered in Aberde by Archibald H. Sayce
[This Critique is based on the Kindle Edition of the Book.
These collection of lectures presents a vivid, although complex and complicated picture of the mental and spiritual mentality of Egyptian and Babylonian society in those far distant days when literacy was non existent except for the few priests who may have delved into its mysteries. An epitome of an ancient culture of some 520 pages, it sets the mood and the *****ambience of the cauldron from which the Abrahamic Faiths were synthesised and eventually evolved in the form of a monotheistic religion. But to understand many of the anomalies in the Bible, it is essential to attempt to understand the minds and the culture of the peoples from which it was derived. Yes, it was heavy reading, but how else would one be transported into that ancient environment and feel what those early Egyptians and Babylonians felt. They too must have been overwhelmed with the many gods, traditions, and obligations they were expected to observe.
We should not attempt to judge the standards and values of those ancient peasant peoples with the mentality we possess today but attempt to put ourselves into their shoes to understand how their minds and emotions worked under those ancient primitive conditions of life. Only then will we see that those people were not ignorant pagans but were people attempting to understand their surroundings and to find an explanation of their lives within the limits of their intellectual development and knowledge.
The gap of knowledge between an illiterate peasant and that of a scholarly priest (even limited as it was in those days) must have been unbridgeable.
***The gap in the social status of a peasant and that of the Pharaoh too must have been so great that the Pharaoh was seen as omnipotent and regarded as such without question, a god-like figure. And as with most other religions, immortalizing a Pharaoh into a god, is no less similar to modern Christians elevating good man and women to sainthood. So we now begin to see the merging of man and god, in all the great religions of man, the immortalizing of our Saints. Yet, prejudice dictates that some worship pagan polygods, while others worship one god but with many saints or prophets or angels.
The importance of lectures and books such as this, suppressed for thousands of years by the different clergy like the ***Justinian code or the Roman Canon Law, allows an insight into the evolution of Judaism from much earlier religious philosophies and traditions. It is by looking at some of these pre-Judaic beginnings that we can appreciate how the early script writers could record the vision of Moses in 1314 BC. We will look at some of these pre-Judaic concepts and traditions to show that Judaic traditions were not by any means unique but handed down and already accepted by the peoples long before them.
The Egyptian religion had always been a combination of ill-assorted survivals and confederation of different cults rather than having evolved from a definite theology. The cohesion of their beliefs was welded together by the authority of the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh was accepted by his people not only as a son and representative of the sun-god, but the visible manifestation of the sun-god himself. It was accepted by the people that the Pharaoh, the Egyptian State, and the Egyptian Religion were united as one.
(1)***** Here we observe that the Pharaoh, (a man), is so highly regarded that he is accepted as a god. Also the Pharaoh (a man) is a manifestation of a god, Ra. Upon examination of all earlier pictorial representation of Christian Prophets or Saints, you will notice that they were all depicted with the halo. The halo was the pictorial symbol of the Sun God, Ra. Only all modern illustrations of Christian prophets and saints today do not have the benefit of a halo. It has taken a long time for Christians to disassociate themselves from the Sun god, Ra.
(2)***** Thus for these same peoples to accept Jesus as a god, representing God on earth does not raise any questions in the minds of the people.
(3)***** The Egyptians also believe in the virgin-birth of the god Pharaoh. This goes back to the 18th Dynasty where on the western wall of the temple of Luxor, when the birth of Amon-hotep III is described that he had no human father. Amon himself descended from heaven and became the father of the future king. His mother was still a virgin when the god of Thebes “incarnated himself,” so that she might “behold him in his divine form.” “My soul is in him, and he shall wear the twofold crown of royalty, ruling the two worlds like the sun for ever.”
(4)***** Here again, clear precedence has been set for the concept of “virgin-birth.” Hence, the story of the virgin birth of Mary of Jesus is also a concept that raises no eye-brows. But Amon-hotep III was not the first whose father was a god. Queen Hatshepsu was also said to have been born of Amon.
(5) *****It is a fundamental belief in Osiris ideology that every body has a Ka, spirit, and the two are bound together. And that it is possible for the Ka to return to a deceased body and there would be resurrection. Hence the Egyptian practice of embalming, to ensure that the Ka has a perfect body to return to for resurrection. The doctrine of resurrection of the body became an integral part of the Osirian faith.
(6)***** Thus the vision of the resurrection of Jesus after his Crucifixion is all well within the bounds of the perception and imagination of the early scribes of the Bible. Although today it would be a miracle for someone to be resurrected after lying dead for 3 days.
(7)***** It is fascinating to observe that the Doctrine of the Trinity was already well established in the early Egyptian schools of theology. All the chief deities of Egypt were forced to conform to it. Anubus, the second person in the trinity of Set, must have already been attached to the cult of Osiris.
(8) Without delving into more details of the Trinity of the Egyptian religion, it can only be assumed that when ***the Council of Nicaea decided to adopt the Trinity in 325 AD that Scholars of Egyptian religions must have had a strong influence in uniting the clergy at Nicaea under the Egyptian doctrines.
(9) It was from among the Babylonians that they saw their gods possessed human forms. Man had been made in the likeness of gods and the gods therefore were of human shape. The converse was the case in Egypt. Here the gods, with a few exceptions, were conveived of as brute beasts. Horus was the hawk, Nekheb the vulture, Uazit of Buto the deadly uraeus snake. Thus it is concluded that Egyptian religion was influenced from outside, likely Asia.
(10) *****The main purpose for the Babylonians to credit the god of Babylon with the creation of the world was to glorify Him. It was necessary that the supreme god of the universe should also be its creator. There is a great contrast between the Babylonian and the Hebrew conceptions of creation. The Hebrew cosmology starts from the belief in one God, i.e., “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. ….The breath of God should become the life of the world.” But the elements of Hebrew cosmology are all Babylonian. But between the polytheism of Babylonia and the monotheism of Israel a gulf is fixed which cannot be spanned.
(11)*** Babylonian cosmology had 3 beliefs, that water is the primal element, the belief in a lawless chaos from which the present world has been rescued after a long struggle between the powers of darkness and light, and a belief in generation as the primary creative force.
(12)*** It will be observed that Babylonian, Hebrew, and Creation in Genesis have all considered that the heavenly bodies are already in existence. What the creator did was to establish them in their stations, and appoint them to mark and register time. Or with Genisis a generality that the Universe was created in 7 days. That the concept of an expanding Universe created from an inconceivable and as yet inexplicable explosion was beyond their comprehension.
(13) Searching for evidence of the creation of man in these ancient scripts, we find, “Ea was the “lord of the earth” as well as of the sea, and Eridu, his city, was the “city of the lord of the land.” The men who inhabited it were his creation: *****he had formed them like a potter out of the clay, and as the divine potter he was therefore known unto them. He was the first artist in clay, and the models that he made were the first men. We can see how this early concept was plagiarized and elaborated upon in Genisis.
(14) ***The Babylonian story of the Deluge (Flood) is well known. But here, it was Xisuthros, like Noah who owed his preservation to his piety. The Deluge (Flood) was a punishment for sin, and that righteous man should be saved. This is clearly an example that people of ancient times saw god as a cruel taskmaster who would destroy if you did not obey his commands.
(15) *****The monotheism of Khu-n-Aten, in Egypt, was pantheistic, and as a result of this the god he worshipped was the god of the whole universe. It was the first time in history that the doctrine was proclaimed that the Supreme Being was the God of all mankind. This again is that same God that is portrayed by Moses and Judaism but was already practiced in Egypt although it did not survive then because of the entrenched memes of orthodox Egyptian polytheist gods. But it was revived by Semites under the guise of Moses’ visions.
I found it astounding that the Bible was neither original, unique nor divine, but was a compilation of the best and believable bits of pagan Egyptian, Babylonian, Sumerian, and Asiatic religious and superstitious beliefs of earlier civilizations that had been kept suppressed until only recently.
It certainly opened my mind to the probable beginnings and roots of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It also suggests that many of these religious concepts were the evolution of the inquiring minds of humans rather than some revelation of God. There are simply too many coincidences of Christian ideologies being only plagiarisms and modifications of the best bits of pagan ancient beliefs.