Monday, September 6, 2010
Is Christianity an Offshoot of the Egyptian Mystery System?
Is Christianity an Offshoot of the Egyptian Mystery System?
by Ghelawdewos Araia
April 7, 2007
Over the last two decades I was engaged in extensive research in African and international studies, which are in effect the domain of my specialization and vocation. My research particularly focused on African cosmology, ontology, and epistemology. In due course of my investigative inquiry, I have encountered fascinating similarities in cultures and belief systems and hence this title for our present discussion.
In 1996 in one of my articles entitled What is Wrong with Afrocentrism? I argued the following, “There is no doubt that the mythology of Osiris and Isis is the foundation for the Judeo-Christian tradition: The concept of metempsychosis [the transmigration of the soul after death], the myth of the jealous brother who kills his twin (Set kills Osiris), the idea of resurrection (Osiris came back to life), the last judgment (Osiris presides over the Last Judgment), the first Madonna (Isis).”1
The ancient Egyptians virtually gave us all major attributes of civilization: agriculture (irrigation), architecture (pyramids, obelisks, temples etc), mathematics (numerical and standard measures), medicine (Imhotep’s legacy –he is the first physician, not Hippocrates-, herbal pharmacology, anatomy, mummification etc), art of government (Egypt is the first nation), and collection of wealth. These magnificent Egyptian contributions are manifestations of ancient African philosophy, ontology, and cosmology. In brief, Kemetic (Kemet is ancient Egypt) philosophy was not simply an abstraction of primordial wisdom but a specification of conceptualization, a body of formally represented knowledge, and a systematic account of life experience. The latter, in effect, was systematically woven into the Egyptian cosmology of spatio-temporal relations of the universe, and this ultimately led the Egyptians to their mystery system (theology) in general and the creation theories in particular.
With respect to the creation of the universe, there are two important Egyptian documents, namely the On (Ani) or Heliopolis Creation Narrative and the Memphite Declaration of Deities. In both narratives, the Spoken Word was central to the creation of all beings, animate and inanimate. As per the On account, “all things are brought into existence through the spoken word; nothing that exists is without the word being spoken…” Similarly, in the Memphite Declaration, “Ptah taught that aspects of himself are manifested in all nature, in the mouth of all gods, and in every human, and in animals, plants and all other living beings. Thus, whatever Ptah conceived came into being through utterance…and the nine deities of Ptah came forth from the teeth and lips in his mouth which pronounced the name of everything, from which Shu and Tefnut also came forth.”2
The spoken word of Egyptian theology, the On and Memphite, were documented during the Sixth Dynasty (2300-2150 B. C. ) and the Tenth Dynasty (2135-2133 B. C. ) respectively. Later on, it was adopted by the Judeo-Christian tradition in Genesis: At the beginning there was word! And it is in Genesis that we encounter the creation of all universe and all living beings including Adam and Eve. And on the Seventh day, God rested. As we shall see later, ‘seven’ (7) for the Egyptians signified ‘completion’.
Long before Adam and Eve, however, the first humans were Shu, Tefnut, Osiris and Isis and as noted above, Osiris (Ausar) was killed by his brother Set but he was resurrected to life. This story (or mythology if you will) is replicated by the Abel and Cain story in the Bible. In both instances, we have now witnessed the first murder incident among humans.
The creation of Adam also finds antecedence in many African creation theories, most notably the Yoruba mythology in which Olorun (the Sky God) fashioned Odudwa (the founding father of Oyo) out of dirt, breath unto him and gave him life. However, unlike Odudwa and Adam, who were essentially human and down-to-earth, Osiris was elevated to the stature of the gods. Thus, according to Ani the Scribe, hymn to Osiris goes as follows: “Praise be unto Osiris Un-Nefer, the great god who dwelleth in Abtu, king of eternity, lord of everlastingness, who passes through millions of years in his existence. He is the firstborn son.”3
As we shall see below in some detail, Osiris, the son-of-god (and in a different context god himself) is very much like Jesus Christ. “There is nothing in the texts which justifies the assumption that Osiris knew,” says Wallis Budge, “that he would rise from the dead and that he would become the king and judge of the dead, or that the Egyptians believed that Osiris died on their behalf and rose again in order that they also might rise from the dead. But from first to last the resurrection of Osiris is the great and distinguishing feature of the Egyptian religion, for Osiris was the first fruits of the dead, and every worshipper of Osiris based his own hope of resurrection and immortality upon the fundamental fact of the resurrection of Osiris.” 4
For Ethiopians of Orthodox Christian faith, Easter or Fasika, more than Christmas, is ‘the great and distinguishing feature of their religion.’ Fasika for Ethiopians is a celebration of Christ’s resurrection and a grand holiday after the long lent. However, pre-Christian Ethiopians may have also celebrated Osiris’ triumph, for the ancient Egyptians believed that Osiris traveled to Ethiopia and took his son Horus (Apollo in Greek), Anubis, Macedo, Pan and other talented individuals. During his stay in Ethiopia, he taught the Ethiopians the art of farming and husbandry, art of government, and the construction of canals to control the flow of the Nile.
Osiris was also the first to make and drink wine and he taught the Egyptians how to manage a vineyard as well as process and preserve wine. It is common knowledge to all people of (the) Christian faith that Christ not only enjoyed drinking wine but he also blessed it as his attribute to his own blood.
In the Book of the Dead Osiris declares, “I am the Great One, son of the Great One… I am Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow…I am the Soul, which is god. I am the Souls of everlastingness, and my body is eternity. My form is everlastingness.” This is incredibly similar to what Jesus Christ preached to the Jews and Gentiles or believers and non-believers alike.
Isis like her brother and husband Osiris is invoked in Christian theology as Eve or as Mary. In fact the first Christian hermits in Egypt were compelled to associate St. Mary with Isis and Jesus with Horus (the son of Osiris) and their rationale is justified because Isis claims that she is the divine among women and she ‘burdened women with the newborn babe in the tenth month’, ‘ordained that parents should be beloved by their children’ and she would ‘inflict retribution on those that feel no love for their parents’. Above all, Isis claims that she is ‘the eldest daughter of Keb (Earth-god), and for this apparent reason, now historians (especially Afrocentrists) depict Isis as the first Madonna.
What I personally found an interesting commonality between Isis and the Ethiopian Christian tradition is the fact that Isis is credited for establishing lent and instructing the ancient Egyptians to fast from meat and fish and to observe celibacy during the entire period of lent. Isis may have not traveled to Ethiopia as her husband did, but it looks that she had a profound clout on the Ethiopian Christian doctrine in whatever form the latter is incorporated into the dogma of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Beyond Egypt, Osiris and Isis were worshipped in the Aegean, Crete, Greece, Italy, and other neighboring countries such as Nubia, Ethiopia, and Libya. In point of fact, around 80 B. C. the Italians founded an institute by the name College of the Servants of Isis in Rome and by 44 B. C. the Italians had affixed festival dates for Isis and Osiris in their official calendar.
There is no doubt that Isis may have existed conceptually among Ethiopians although there is no credible evidence documented in Ethiopian historiography (at least for now), but some Ethiopian names are similar to Isis’ (Aset or Eset in Egyptian). Moreover, even if we cannot prove the existence of Isis in pre-Christian Ethiopia, the similarities between St. Mary and Isis indeed makes the latter the first Madonna as stated earlier, and this is why: “Egyptian inscriptions do not mention any tomb of Isis. Whether the Egyptians believed that she passed from this world to the Other World unchanged in respect to her body cannot be said, but there is little doubt that, at least in the latest days of her cult in Egypt, it was her immunity from death which most impressed the Egyptians and the nations around and made them to exalt her powers over those of Osiris.”5 The ascension of Mary (and Elijah before her) clearly corroborates the Egyptian mythology of the powers to negate death.
Going back to Osiris again, we find the most fascinating similarities between himself and Christ in the second coming and the Day of Judgment. In Judgment Day the dead will face the presiding judge Osiris and make confessions as follows:
I never took away anything by force from any man
I never did an act of oppression to any man
I was beloved by my father, praised by my mother, well disposed toward my brother, sweet-tempered with my sister
I never spake evil of any kind
I gave bread to the hungry man and clothes to the naked
I never gave a verdict in a case between two brothers
The confession and the judgment takes place in the Hall of the Two Maat (Truth and Justice) whereby Goddesses are seated by the doors and holding the scepter of ‘serenity’ in the right hand and ‘ankh’ (life) in the left. Also in the Hall is present the symbolic scale of Maat and two-and-forty gods (42 gods) or spirits to whom the confessor declares his innocence. Incidentally, the 42 gods could find parallel to 44 spirit saints in the Ethiopian context. Gonder, for instance, is famous for its forty-four Adbarat (abode of the spirits).
The Declaration of Innocence (aka "The Negative Confessions"), as documented in the Papyrus of Ani or the Book of the Dead (18th Dynasty, 1550-1305 B. C.) is an elaborate version of the confessions enumerated above and sequentially runs as follows:
1)I have not done iniquity
2)I have not robbed with violence
3)I have not stolen
4)I have done no murder
5)I have not defrauded offerings
6)I have not diminished oblations
7)I have not plundered the gods
8)I have spoken no lies
9)I have not snatched away food
10)I have not caused pain
11)I have not committed fornication
12)I have not caused shedding of tears
13)I have not dealt deceitfully
14)I have not transgressed
15)I have not acted guilefully
16)I have not laid waste the ploughed land
17)I have not been an eavesdropper
18)I have not set my lips in motion against any man
19)I have not been angry and wrathful except for a just cause
20)I have not defiled the wife of any man
21)I have not defiled the wife of any man*
22)I have not polluted myself
23)I have not caused terror
24)I have not transgressed**
25)I have not burned with rage
26)I have not stopped my ears against the words of Right and Truth
27)I have not worked grief
28)I have not acted with insolence
29)I have not stirred up strife
30)I have not judged hastily
31)I have not been (a) eavesdropper***
32)I have not multiplied words exceedingly
33)I have done neither harm nor ill
34)I have never cursed the king
35)I have not worked treason
36)I have never befouled the water
37)I have not spoken scornfully
38)I have not cursed God
39)I have not acted with arrogance
40)I have not been overweeningly proud
41)I have never magnified my condition beyond what was fitting
42)I have never slighted the god in my town.6
Any intelligent person who reads the Bible in general and the Ten Commandments in particular could be perplexed by the input of Egyptian theology in Christian dogma although believers generally tend to deny any plausible logical deduction that may unseat the foundation of their respective religions. The fact, however, remains steadfast. After all Moses was Egyptian and the disciple of Amenhotep (Akhenaten) who popularized (not invented) monotheism in Egypt. Although the Egyptian mystery system was predominantly polytheistic, early on during the course of the Egyptian civilization monotheism was pretty much established with a low profile. Thus, the Jews, Christians and Moslems borrowed the idea of one god from the Egyptians. (emphasis mine)
On top of the many similarities and shared dogmas between Egyptian theology and Christianity, the two belief systems are allegorically connected. For instance, Egyptian magical numbers such as 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, and 12 do not only represent simple computation but they also symbolically reflect philosophy, ontology and cosmology as related to human nature and truth. For example 3 represents the manifestation of Osiris-Harmachis-Temu, a triad (3) representing the morning sun, the evening sun, and the night sun. The triad manifestations in Christianity, of course, are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost that constitute the Trinity. Christians believe that Christ rose from the dead three days after he was dead and buried. In many traditional African societies, the accused or the sickly invokes the name of God three times in order to absolve him or herself from his/her crime or be cured from ill health. Among the Yoruba a nursing mother and child pass three times through [sacred] dripping water poured on top of the thatched roof of their house. In Ethiopia, especially in the areas of Tigrigna and Amharic speakers, if a female baby is born the women gathered to celebrate and welcome the newly born ululate three times.
Four (4) represents the four sons of Horus or the grandsons of Osiris, and in turn, the four cardinal points of East, West, North, and South. Depicted like the pharaohs, Osiris holds in his hands four symbols of stability, life, serenity, and power (dominion). “Moreover, in Egyptian astrology, we encounter the four gods of Amset (man), Hapi (ape), Tuamutef (jackal) and Gebhsennuf (hawk) which became the Four Beasts of lion, calf, man, and eagle in Christianity (Book of Revelation).” 7 Egyptian mythologies further symbolize plethora of ideas such as the Four Rejoicing Ones, Four Nemset Vases, Four Faces, Four gods etc. In many traditional African societies the Four Elements that characterize human nature are the body, the soul, the double, and the shadow.
The number 5 was associated with sacrifice. According to Plutarch and other classical historians Osiris was born on the first of the five epagomenal days of the Egyptian year and as per Biblical prophesy Christ was to be born five and half days (interpreted as 5,500 years) after Adam and was to be sacrificed in order to cleanse humanity from its sins, very much like the role of Osiris. The five times of incense in Christian orthodoxy refer to 1) Abel, Genesis 4:24; 2) Noah, Genesis 8:20; 3) Melkhizedek, Genesis 14:18; 4) Aaron in Leviticus, 9, and 5) Zacharia in Luke 1:8, and these Biblical personas are men who offered accepted sacrifices by the Lord. In praise of these altruistic men, the priest and the deacon burn incense and go around the altar three (3) times. The five pillars and five prayers per day of Islam most likely correspond to the incense ritual of Christianity.
As has already been stated seven (7) represents completion for the Egyptians. After a child was born, it was in the Egyptian tradition to wash the baby with water or oil and the latter signifies the Seven Holy Oils used in the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony. Likewise after a male child is born in Ethiopia (especially in the central and northern regions) the women ululate seven times. The nursing Yoruba woman that we encountered earlier would perform the three times walk seven days after her child is born. In the Book of Gates of the Egyptians, there are the symbolic seven stands for seven gods. Moreover, in Egyptian theology we come across the Seven Hathors, the Seven Arits, the Seven Cows, the Seven Uraei, the Seven Spirits, and the Seven-headed Serpent. In almost similar fashion, seven is prefixed with either animals or spirits in the Book of Revelation. Nowadays, humanity in general is stuck in the number 7 even if the subject does not logically represent seven: the seven wonders of the world, the seven seas, the Group of Seven etc or in more practical terms the seven days of the week or the seven sounds (vowels) of each Ethiopian character of the alphabet. The pious Muslims during pilgrimage walk seven times around the Kaaba and the Luminaries, by the same token, believe in the Seven Chakras (Sanskrit) or energy points of the human body and they assemble in Egypt and walk around the pyramid seven times.
Nine (9) also represents completeness and finality in Egyptian philosophy. The company of the Gods contained nine members and during judgment day, thus, Osiris was accompanied by nine gods who stand on the nine steps that lead to the pedestal where Osiris is seated on a chair. Moreover, we have Nine Mourners, Nine Watchers, Nine Task-masters, and Nine Holders of the Rope for measuring land. In most African societies nine symbolizes sacredness and to be sure there are the most revered Nine Saints in Ethiopia.
Twelve was essentially the 12 points of the Zodiac in Egyptian astronomy but later the Egyptians calculated the revolution of our planet earth after studying the lunar movements. Hence 12x30= 360 plus 5 days for harvest would be 365 days, the calendar that all of us use to this day. In fact, like the Egyptian or Coptic calendar, the Ethiopian Calendar has 12x30 days plus five or epagomenal days. By the same token, the Jewish calendar known as sod ha-ibbur is a derivation of the Egyptian system of intercalating the solar and lunar cycles. In the Book Am-Tuat the Egyptians have illustrations of 12 serpents. Christians then took the Egyptian 12 to mean the twelve Apostles as astronomers did for 12 months. In most African societies the kings council or judges were 12 in number.
There is no doubt that Judaism evolved out of Egyptian polytheism, and Christianity and Islam followed suit. Where else could their origin be? (emphasis mine)
1)Ghelawdewos Araia, “What is Wrong With Afrocentrism?” African Link, Vol. 5, No. 5, 1996
2)Molefi Kete Asante and Abu S. Abarry (editors), African Intellectual Heritage, Temple University Press, 1996, pp. 12-16
3)E. A. Wallis Budge, OSIRIS & The Egyptian Resurrection, Vol. II, Dover Publications Inc., New York, 1973, p. 66
4)Wallis Budge, Vol. I, pp. 312-313
5)Wallis Budge, Vol. II, p. 280
6)Asante and Abarry, pp. ibid, 73-74
7)Ghelawdewos Araia, ibid
#21 is repeated because it is addressed specifically to the two-headed serpent
#24 is repeated because it is addressed to the ‘Destroyer’
#31 is repeated because it is addressed to Sekherui
Copyright © IDEA, Inc. April 7, 2007. Dr. Ghelawdewos Araia can be contacted for educational and constructive feedback at email@example.com
Editor's Note: There are many who would like to take (and have taken) the information contained in this piece, and similar pieces, to discredit the authority of the Bible. I am NOT one of those people. Those who do so are FALSE TEACHERS! In fact, I believe the Egyptian influences on Christianity and Judaism, in particular, confirm the truth of the Bible. I have no problem accepting the Egyptian prefigurations of Christ, in particular, and of the Bible in general. As Biblicists, we must understand that it was the sons of Ham that were first endowed with the wires of the revelation of God after the flood. The sons of Ham were Cush (Ethiopia/Nubia), Mizraim (Egypt), Phut, and Canaan (Phoenicia, Palestine). And from Cush, Nimrod was born. The mainstays of Nimrod's kingdom were Babel (Babylon), Erech, Accad, Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From Babylon came the Hammurabi's law, which was in place approximately 1,000 years before the Mosaic law . The Egyptian Negative Confessions, as shared in this article predated the Mosaic law, at least 1500 years. So what is my point? God had been speaking to mankind, long before the coming of the Hebrews, whom I acknowledge as my ancestors, by the way. In fact, it was out of Ham's son Canaan, that a land space was promised to Israel. The Most High later transmitted the knowledge of Himself to Israel (sons of Shem, Eber is actually the progenitor of the Hebrew nation, NOT Abraham), whom he chose to be his corporate prophet on earth. As the fullness of the Gentiles (Japheth) draws to a close, Israel shall reclaim her glorious destiny and rule the world, alongside her Messiah Jesus Christ, or whatever Hebrew designation you choose to call him by (Yeshua, Yehoshua, Yahshua, Yahushua, Yahawashi, etc.) Shalom.