By Jayne Gibson
Ancient Egypt had a formative influence on the ancient world through its stability and links with the remote past, and Egypt’s reputation for secret wisdom was due to the peculiar geographical and climate features of the country. The Nile River Valley and the Nile Delta comprised approximately 12,000 square miles of fertile land, the villages and towns of which were situated along its length. The Mediterranean Sea lay to the north, vast deserts to the east and west and dense jungle to the south, making unsuspected invasion near impossible, and its virtual isolation allowed Egyptian civilization to develop unthreatened by its neighbors. Because of this, the ancient Egyptian culture was very static, and it existed virtually unchanged for millennia, its origins going back beyond 3000 B.C.E.
Much of the knowledge concerning ancient Egypt is based on complex rituals related to death and the afterlife. Since Egyptian civilization was a product in many ways of the natural forces that surrounded it, the people looked to Nature to explain the unexplainable. The three main elements of the Egyptian religion were:
1. A solar monotheism–one god as the creator of the universe who manifested his power in the sun and its operations.
2. A belief in the regenerative power of nature which expressed itself in the adoration of ithyphallic gods, fertile goddesses and a series of animal and vegetation deities.
3. A perception of anthropomorphic divinity, the life of whom existed in this world and in the world beyond.
Perceptions of God
The Egyptian word for God is NTR or Neter which is illustrated by the hieroglyph of an axe-head supported by a wooden handle, a strong and formidable weapon in skilled hands. The use of this sign as an emblem of God is probably very ancient and based on prehistoric man’s belief that God was a mighty and formidable warrior, which conception they carried through even in their most sophisticated philosophies. While it is quite possible that the word means “strength” and “power, ” other attributes are “renewal” or “renovation,” as if the fundamental idea of God was one who had the power to perpetually renew itself and was self-creating. Above all else, the ancient Egyptians believed in one God, who was self-existent, immortal, eternal, and invisible–the Creator of heaven and earth. Their principal religious theology was based upon this belief and no matter how far back we trace its history, there is no time when this belief was not predominant. If examined closely, the gods are found to be nothing more than forms, manifestations, phases or attributes of the god Ra who was, in turn, the outward manifestation or symbol of the One God of whom it was not their custom to address.
The Gods of Egypt/Religious Concepts
The word Neturu means “gods” and refers to beings which in some way partake of the nature or character of God. They were referred to as intermediaries between God and man, and the word has also been translated as “Those who from Heaven to Earth came.” They are spoken of in the Bible as the Anakim, and in Chapter 6 of Genesis they are also called Nephilim, which in Hebrew means the same thing, “Those who have come down from the Heavens to Earth.” Close examination of the following gods will give the reader an adequate conception of the Egyptian attitude regarding the multifaceted aspects of God and the religious concepts at the heart of the Egyptian Religion:
Nu was the “father of the gods” and originator of the “great company of gods”. He was the primeval watery mass out of which all things came. The creation myth of the ancient Egyptians began with a vast waste of water called Nu, similar to the creation story in Genesis where the Spirit of God “hovered over the waters.” According to the writings of the Egyptians, there was a time when neither heaven nor earth existed, and there was only the boundless primordial water which was shrouded in thick darkness. The primeval water remained in this condition for a considerable length of time; however, within it was the origin of all things that later came into existence. At length, Spirit felt the desire for creative activity and uttering the Word of Creation, the world sprang forth in the form depicted in the Mind of Spirit before the Word was ever spoken. This was the primary act of Creation.
The next act of Creation was the formation of the egg from which Ra sprang, within whose shining form was the almighty power of Divine Spirit. Ra thus became the visible symbol of God, the Creator of the world. Time began when Ra appeared above the horizon in the form of the Sun, and the life of humanity was compared to his daily course at a very early date. As far back as the IVth dynasty, about 2700 BCE, he was regarded as the great god of heaven, King of all the gods, divine beings and resurrected dead. As Ra was “Father of the Gods,” it was natural that every god should represent some phase of him and that he should represent every god. This is illustrated by the inscription on the tomb of Seti I, about 1370 BCE: Praise be unto thee, O Ra …behold thy body is Temu…Praise be unto thee, O Ra…thy body is Khephera…Praise be unto thee, O Ra…thy body is Shu…Praise be unto thee, O Ra…thy body is Tefnut…The attempt being made at the time this hymn was written was to emphasize that every god, whether foreign or native, was an aspect or form of Ra, the visible emblem of God.
Ra was probably the oldest god worshipped in Egypt, and his name belongs to such a remote period that its meaning is unknown. He is given credit for creating heaven and the earth and all its creatures. The station of the resurrected in heaven was decided by Ra and of all the other gods, only Osiris had the power to claim protection for his followers. At one time, the Egyptian’s greatest hope was not only to become “God, the son of God,” by adoption, but that Ra would actually become his father. These ideas remained the same from the earliest of times, and Ra maintained his position as the great head of the companies of the gods.
Thoth was the master of law, both in its physical and moral conceptions, and he had the knowledge of “divine speech.” He was also seen as the inventor of the arts and sciences, and he was called “Lord of Books” or “Scribe of the Gods” or “mighty in speech” i.e., his words manifested. In the Book of the Dead, Thoth held both the tongue and heart of Ra or that is to say that he was the reason and mental powers of the god and was the means by which Ra’s will was translated into speech. In every legend where Thoth takes a prominent part, it is he who spoke the word that resulted in the wishes of Ra being carried into effect. He spoke the words which caused the creation of the heavens and the earth, and he taught Isis the words which enabled her to restore life to the body of Osiris in such a way that they could conceive a child. He also gave her the formula which brought her son, Horus, back to life after he had been stung to death by a scorpion.
The hymns to Ra, which are found in the Book of the Dead, state that the deities Thoth and Maat stand on each side of the great god in his boat. They were believed to take some important part in directing its course and as they were with Ra when he sprang from the abyss of Nu, their existence was coexistent with his own. His knowledge of the powers of calculation measured out the heavens and planned the earth, and his will kept the forces of heaven and earth in equilibrium. In the later dynastic period, he was called “Lord of Khemennu” who was self-created and to whom none had given birth, i.e., the heart of Ra came forth in the form of Thoth. He was therefore seen as self-begotten and self-produced.
The character of Thoth is a lofty and beautiful conception and is the highest idea of deity ever fashioned by the Egyptian mind. He was the personification of the mind of God as the all-pervading, governing and directing power of heaven and earth and formed the Egyptian belief in the resurrection of the dead in a spiritual body and the doctrine of everlasting life.
As the goddess of Judgment, Maat was closely associated with Thoth and Ptah in the work of creation. She was so closely connected with Thoth that she was often regarded as the feminine counterpart of the god. Maat stood with Thoth in the boat of Ra when the Sun god rose above the waters of the abyss of Nu for the first time. In connection with Ra, she indicated the regularity with which he rose and set in the sky and the course which he followed daily from east to west. In her capacity of regulator of the path of the Sun, Maat is said to be the “daughter of Ra and the “eye of Ra.”
The word Maat means “straight rod” which was originally an instrument used to keep things straight, a guide used by masons, but the word evolved to mean a rule, law or canon by which the actions of humanity were kept straight and governed. The Egyptians used the word in a physical and moral sense and it came to mean “right, truth, genuine, upright, just, etc. The exact equivalent in English is “God will judge the right” making this goddess the embodiment of physical and moral law, order and truth. As a moral power, Maat was a great goddesses and in her dual form as goddess of the South (Thaum-Aesch-Niaeth) and the North (Auramoouth), she was the lady of the Judgment Hall and the personification of justice.
Khephera was a primordial god and can best be described as the type of matter which contains within itself the germ of life which is about to spring into a new existence. He also represented the dead body from which the spiritual body was about to rise.
Ptah was one of the most active of the three great gods who carried out the commands of Thoth and gave expression in words to the Will of the Creative Power. He was self created and was a form of the Sun god Ra as the “Opener of the Day.”
Temu or Atmu, was the “Closer of the Day,” just as Ptah was its Opener. In the story of Creation, he declares that he evolved himself under the form of Khephera. In hymns, he is said to be the “maker of the gods” or the “creator of men.”
According to one legend, Shu sprang directly from Temu and according to another, the goddess Hathor was his mother. Shu made his way between the gods Seb and Nut and raised up the latter to form the sky. As a power of nature, he typified the “light” and standing on the top of a staircase at Hermopolis Magna, he raised up the sky and held it there during each day. To assist him in this work, he placed a pillar at each of the cardinal points making the “Pillars of Shu” the props of the sky.
As a power of nature, Tefnut typified moisture or some aspect of the sun’s heat. Her brother, Shu, was the right eye of Temu and she was the left, i.e. Shu represented an aspect of the Sun, and Tefnut the Moon. The gods Temu, Shu and Tefnut formed a trinity and in the story of the creation, after describing how Shu and Tefnut proceeded from himself, Temu says, “Thus from being one god I became three.”
Seb was called Erpa, the “Hereditary chief” of the gods, and the “father of the gods.” He was originally the god of the earth, but later he became a god of the dead as representing the earth wherein the deceased was laid. One legend attributes him with the forming of the primordial egg from which the world came into being.
Originally, Nut was the personification of the sky and represented the feminine principle which was active at the creation of the universe. Seb and Nut existed in the watery abyss side by side with Shu and Tefnut and later, Seb became the earth and Nut the sky. These deities were supposed to unite every evening and remain embraced until the morning light when the god Shu separated them and set the goddess of the sky upon his four pillars until the evening. Nut was regarded as the mother of the gods and of all living things.
Thoth created the Epact (or the five superadded days) which he added to the 360 days of which the year formerly consisted, and these five days were observed by the ancient Egyptians as the birthdays of the gods Osiris, Aroueris, Isis, Typhon (Set) and Nephthys. Osiris was born on the first day and upon his entrance into the world a voice said, “The lord of all the earth is born.”(i) Although Divine in origin, Osiris was held to be a man who lived and reigned as a king on earth and applied himself toward the civilization of Egypt. He created both a body of laws to regulate conduct and instructions in the reverence and worship of the gods. He traveled the land and inspired people to utilize this discipline, and this was accomplished not by force but through the strength of reason.
Originally, the Egyptians considered him a man who had lived, suffered cruel mutilation and death, and then triumphed over death to attain everlasting life. He was treacherously murdered by his brother Set and after his death, Isis, by the use of magical formula, succeeded in raising him to life again. Because of this, Osiris became a symbol of resurrection and immortality. The ancient Egyptians believed that what Osiris did, they could also do and what the gods did for Osiris, they could also do for them. As the gods brought about his resurrection, so they might also bring about theirs and because of this, they made him the intercessor, judge, and hope of both the living and the dead. By the XVIIIth dynasty, he was raised to such an exalted position in heaven that he became the equal and in certain cases, the superior of Ra and was ascribed the attributes which belonged only to God. In this manner, Osiris became the source and origin of the gods and humanity, and the manhood of the god was forgotten.
Even though Osiris was identified with the Nile, Ra and with several other gods, it was in his aspect as the god of resurrection and everlasting life that he appealed to the people of Egypt. No matter how far back we trace religious ideas in Egypt, we never find a time when the belief in the resurrection of Osiris did not exist. Osiris maintained the highest place in the minds of the Egyptians as the god/man who was both divine and human and neither foreign invasion nor religious disturbance succeeded in altering this conception. As early as the XIIth dynasty (2500 BCE) the worship of this god became almost universal and a thousand years later, Osiris had become a national god. The attributes of the great cosmic gods were ascribed to him and he appeared as not only the god and judge of the dead, but also as the creator of the world. He who was the son of Ra became the equal of his father and took his place beside him in heaven.
As a nature goddess, Isis had a place in the boat of the Sun at the creation where she typified the dawn. Her wanderings in search of her husband’s body, the sorrow which she endured in birthing and raising Horus in the papyrus swamps of the Delta, and the persecution she suffered at the hands of her husband’s enemies form the subject of many texts in all periods. She had various aspects, but the one which appealed most to the Egyptians was that of “Divine Mother.” In most stories dealing with Isis, she is depicted as both woman and goddess, just as the story of Osiris makes that deity both god and man. By reason of her success in reanimating the body of Osiris by the articulation of magical formula, Isis was called “Lady of Enchantments” and from a number of passages in texts of various periods, we learn that she possessed great skill in magic.
Isis is one of the goddesses most mentioned in the hieroglyphic texts. She was regarded as the female counterpart of Osiris in the dynastic period, and she was also associated with him in this capacity in the pre-dynastic period. She always held a position which was entirely different from that of other goddesses and although it is certain that Egyptian views concerning her varied from time to time, Isis was the greatest goddess of Egypt. She became so universal that she even began to be worshipped in different aspects of herself: Isis of Nature, Isis of the Heavens, Isis the Mother, Isis the Virgin, Isis the Bride, etc. She was the Divine Mother whose influence and love pervaded all of heaven and earth. She was the personification of the great feminine, creative power which conceived and brought forth every living being, from the gods in heaven to man on earth, and what she brought forth, she protected and cared for. She used her power graciously and successfully, not only in creating new beings but in restoring those who were dead. She was the highest type of the faithful, loving wife and mother, and it was in this capacity that the Egyptian honored and worshipped her.
At a very early period, Set was regarded as the brother and friend of “Horus the Elder”, the Aroueris of the Greeks. He represented the night while Horus represented the day, and each of these gods performed many offices of a friendly nature for the dead. However, at a later period, the views of the Egyptians concerning Set changed and soon after the reign of the kings called “Seti”( whose names were based upon that of the god), he became the personification of evil and of all that is terrible in nature.
Set, as a power of nature, was always waging war with Horus the Elder, i.e. the night did battle with the day for supremacy. Both gods, however sprang from the same source. When Horus (the son of Isis and Osiris) grew up, he did battle with Set for Set had murdered his father. In many texts these two originally distinct fights and two distinctly different Horus gods are confused with each other. The conquest of Set by Horus in the first conflict illustrated the defeat of the night by the day, and the defeat of Set in the second conflict seems to have meant the conquest of life over death, good over evil.
In the earliest times, Nephthys was regarded as the female counterpart of Set and was regularly associated with him. Nevertheless, she always appears as the faithful sister and friend of Isis who helped the widow goddess collect the scattered limbs of Osiris and also assisted them in defeating the wickedness of her own husband. In the Pyramid Texts, she is a patron to the deceased, and she maintains that character throughout the Book of the Dead. In the Theban recension of the Book of the Dead, Nephthys stands behind Osiris when the hearts of the dead are weighed on the Great Scales. In funeral papyri, she always accompanied Isis in her ministrations to the dead and helped the deceased overcome the powers of death and the grave. As a nature goddess, she performed for the deceased what she did for the gods in primeval times when she fashioned the “body” of the “Company of Gods.” From this she obtained the name Nebkhat or “Lady of the Body of the Gods.”
Like Isis, she had a place in the boat of the Sun at creation, where she typified the twilight or very early night. Nephthys was the personification of darkness and of all that belongs to it, and her attributes were of a passive rather than an active nature. She was the opposite of Isis for Isis symbolized birth, growth, development and vigor while Nephthys was the symbol of death, decay, diminution and immobility. Isis represented the part of the world which was visible and Nephthys the invisible, and they represented respectively the things which are and the things which are yet to be–the beginning and the end, birth and death. Although a goddess of death, she was associated with the life which springs from death.
Horus, son of Isis and Osiris, like many other forms of the Horus gods, represented the rising sun which was born daily. There were many aspects of this god, for in him were all the various Horus gods including Heru, the god of the heights of heaven, and Aroueris or Horus the Elder. He was the offspring of the dead man/god Osiris and his lawful successor. He was a god whose aspects appealed to the Egyptians because he represented renewal–life as opposed to death, movement as opposed to inactivity. A great number of the attributes which belonged to the old Horus gods were transferred to the son of Isis and Osiris, especially when the worship of Osiris was dominant. Horus the Child became the symbol of new birth and new life–the first hours of the day, the first days of the month, the first months of the year–everything that was young and vigorous.
In a way, Osiris and Horus were complements to each other. The chief difference between them was that Osiris represented the past and Horus represented the present. The form in which Horus appealed most strongly to the Egyptians was that of the god of light who fought against Set, the god of darkness–the god of good against the god of evil. When Osiris had attained the position of Ra in the minds of the Egyptians, Horus represented a divine power who was about to avenge the cruel murder of his father, and the moral conceptions of right and wrong, good and evil, truth and falsehood, were applied to the conceptions of light and darkness–Horus and Set.
In the judgment scene of the Book of the Dead, he leads the deceased into the presence of Osiris and makes an appeal to his father that the deceased may be allowed to enjoy the benefits allotted to those who are true and righteous in judgment. He was believed to assist the dead, even as he had assisted Osiris, and men and women hoped that he would come to their aid after death and act as a mediator between the them and the judge of the Underworld. He not only succeeded to the rank and high esteem of his father but in his aspect of avenger, he gradually acquired the position of intermediary and intercessor on behalf of humanity.
Anubis was the guard and attendant of Isis and the watcher and guard of the gods. It was Anubis who presided over the abode of the dead. The jackal was the symbol of the god, and this fact seems to prove that in primitive times, Anubis was the god of the dead because jackals were generally seen prowling around tombs. In the text of Unas, he is associated with the Eye of Horus, and his duty was to guide the dead through the Underworld on their way to Osiris. In the Judgment scene, Anubis appeared to act for Osiris with whom he was intimately connected. It was his duty to examine the beam of the Great Balance and to take care that it was exactly horizontal. Anubis not only produced the heart of the deceased for judgment, but also took care that the body which had been committed to his charge would not be handed over to the “Eater of the Dead.” His worship was very ancient and might be older than the worship of Osiris.
The Effect of Egyptian Thought and Theology on the Ancient Jews
The Jews, having come from Chaldea as a group of nomadic tribes under Abraham, moved down into Egypt during the time of the great famine, and the duration of their residence was a period of some 400 years. As a result of this residence, the religious and philosophical concepts which made up the heart of Egyptian culture were absorbed and woven into the framework of their belief system. It may be significant that this period coincides with the rule of a pharaoh named Akhnaton, who tried to introduce a religious revolution in Egyptian thought and practice. During his reign, he attempted to replace the traditional Egyptian gods by a form of monotheism based on the worship of the disc of the Sun. It is interesting to speculate what interaction may have occurred between the Hebrews and the court of the pharaoh. It can be questioned whether this Egyptian monotheistic experience was the result of Jewish influence, as the story of Joseph implies, or whether it was Akhnaton’s religion that played a positive role in bringing monotheism to the Jews.
The Laws of Moses were to a great extent derived from the laws of ancient Egypt. The early history of the Jews was influenced by an Egyptian religious background, not only by their residence within its borders but also under the guidance of Moses, who was well versed in Egyptian philosophy and theology. Upon close examination, the ancient doctrines of Egyptian religion can be easily discerned within the teachings of the Old and New Testaments.
The Act of Creation
The Egyptian story of Creation is nearly identical to the Act of Creation as told in the Bible. Remembering the descriptions of the gods at the beginning of this paper, consider the following from The First Book of Moses – Genesis:
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light and there was light…and God divided the light from the darkness…God called the light Day and the darkness He called Night…Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters…And God called the firmament Heaven…and God said…and let the dry land appear…And God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night…and it was so.
It can be said that Ra was God the Creator, and the gods which sprang from this single source were simply different aspects of this single God. Nu was the primal watery abyss, and Kepherah, Ptah, Temu, Shu, Tefnut, Seb and Nut can be seen as Ra in the Act of Creation. Isis and Nephthys typified the separation of the Night from the Day. Thoth was the utterance and projection of the Will and the Word while Maat was the creation of order out of chaos. In the myths of both the Egyptians and the Hebrews the Creation came about by the utterance of the Word. In a hymn to Hapi, god of the Nile, from the XVIIth and XIXth dynasties, it is said:
God hath made the universe, and He hath created all that therein is…He is the Creator of the world, and it was He who fashioned it with His hands before there was any beginning …What His heart conceived came to pass…and when He had spoken His word came to pass, and it shall endure forever.
The Many Faces of God
The names the Egyptians applied to their gods bear testimony to their conceptions of God, for these names represented some quality or attribute which they would have applied to Him. From the appellations by which the gods are known, in texts from all periods, it is seen that Egyptian concepts of God were almost identical with those of the Hebrews, Muhammadans and Christians of later periods. When classified, some of these names can be read as:
- “God is One and alone, and none other existeth with Him…the One Who hath made all things.”
- “God is life, and through Him only man liveth…He breatheth the breath of life into his nostrils.”
- “God is a spirit, a hidden spirit…the Divine Spirit.”
- “God existed when nothing else existed, and what existeth He created after He had come into being.”
- “God is the eternal One…infinite; and endureth for ever and ever…He shall endure to all eternity.”
- “God is the hidden being and no man hath known his form…He is a mystery unto His creatures.”
- “His name remaineth hidden…His names are innumerable…and none knoweth their number.”
- “God is truth, and He liveth by Truth…He resteth upon truth…”
For consideration, the following is presented:
- Ra as Almighty God, the Creator, but also the Invisible God (the Sun was only his symbol).
- Thoth as the Mind of God, the Wisdom of God and the Word.
- Isis as Aima Elohim, the Great Mother; as Mary, the Mother of God; and also the Love of God.
- Maat as the Truth of God and the Justice of God.
- Horus as the God of Battles or the Vengeful God.
- Osiris as God Made Manifest in the Mind of Man, the Son of God.
- The “Company of Gods” as the God of Hosts.
The Gods Became Angels
The gods of Egypt, like the angels of biblical lore, can be broadly described as personified powers meditating between the Divine and the human. Even in its devotion to monotheism, ancient Israel was able to embrace the image of a council of gods by turning all of them into angels that serve the One God. This acceptance of a belief in angels was a development made relatively easy because lesser gods and angels could be referred to as “sons of God.” This type of development naturally led to a kind of monotheism whereby all the many gods and goddesses would be seen, at least philosophically, as aspects of One God. Later development in both Judaism and Christianity shows a remarkable growth of angelic folklore as a result of continuing this ancient practice of absorbing the gods of polytheistic religions by turning them into angels.
Just as the gods of Egypt represented aspects of Ra, the angels of the Old and New Testaments likewise represent aspects of God.
|Tzaphqiel – Righteousness of God
|Khamael – Severity of God
|Raphael – Healer of God
|Haniel – Glory of God
|Michael – Perfection of God
|Gabriel – Strength of God
Osiris and Christ
As a god/man, Osiris walked the earth, lived the life of man, suffered, died and rose again to everlasting life. The evolution in the worship of Osiris went from the idea of the god as the example of a man who had risen from the dead and attained life everlasting to becoming the cause of the resurrection of the dead with the power to bestow eternal life upon mortals. He was considered a god made manifest, god as a man. As the Son of Ra, Osiris took his place next to his father in heaven. In relation to this, the following is offered:
I Timothy 3:16: God was manifested in the flesh…Received up in glory.
Colossians 1:15: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
Acts 7:55: But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the Glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
Mark 14:62: And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power…
Luke 22:69: Hereafter, the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.
Through his death and resurrection, Osiris became judge of the dead and the preparer of the way to heaven. By his intercession, the righteous were born anew in a spiritual body, thus entering the Kingdom of Osiris, there to reside for all eternity. However, if Osiris judged the soul to be unrighteous, it was cast to the “Eater of the Dead” or the Egyptian conception of hell. In relation to this, consider the following:
John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
John 14:4: And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
John 11:25 I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me though he may die, he shall live.
Romans 14:9: For to this end Christ died and rose again and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
2 Tim 4:4: I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge the living and the dead…
Romans 8:34: …It is Christ who died and furthermore is also risen who is even the right hand of God who also makes intercession for us.
I Corinthians 15:12 -16: Now if Christ preached that he had been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? …For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.
Luke 12:5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who…has power to cast into hell…
Isis and Mary
Isis, as “Divine Mother,” has obvious connections to the Virgin Mary, the loving mother of Christ, and it is clear that the early Egyptian Christians bestowed some of the attributes of Isis upon her. There is little doubt that in her character of the loving and protecting mother, Isis appealed strongly to the imagination of all Eastern people and formed the foundation for the Christian Madonna and Child.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. — The Hail Mary
Luke 11: 27: Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts which nursed You!
In the doctrine of the Assumption, it was believed that Mary was literally taken up into Heaven in a physical sense and was crowned Queen of Heaven. Feasts such as the February Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary (the Festival of Lights) and the Physical Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in August go back to the mysteries of Isis and coincide with major pagan festivals. The Assumption in August coincides with the Isiac festivals celebrating the rise of Sirius predicting the inundation of the Nile in Ancient Egypt, and the February Purification coincides with Isis as the Queen of Lights.
The doctrine of partheno-genesis was well known in Egypt centuries before the birth of Christ, as illustrated by the belief in the conception of Horus through the power given to Isis by Thoth, the Intelligence or Mind of God. This belief was coexistent with the beginnings of the history of Egypt.
Luke 1:34-35: Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
Several incidents of the wandering of the Virgin and the Child in Egypt are recorded in the Apocryphal Gospels, and the writers of the Apocryphal Gospels intended to pay additional honor to Mary by ascribing to her what they had previously attributed to Isis. If the parallels between the mythological history of Isis and Horus and the history of Mary and the Child are considered, it is difficult to avoid perceiving reflections of the most spiritual doctrines of the Egyptian religion within Christian teachings.
The knowledge of ancient Egyptian religion which we now possess explains that the rapid progress of Christianity in Egypt was mainly due to the fact that the new religion preached there by Saint Mark closely resembled the worship of Osiris, Isis and Horus. In Philae, in southern Egypt, the worship of Osiris and Isis maintained its own until the beginning of the fifth century; however, at this period in all other parts of Egypt, Mary and Christ had taken the place of Isis and Horus. Not to be forgotten, the “mother of god” was no longer called Isis but was now addressed as Mary.
Luke 1: 48…For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
The ancient Egyptians saw man as consisting of nine parts which could be simplified into the threefold division of man along the lines of Spirit, Soul and Body, which accords with the New Testament views of St. Paul, and can be summarized as follows: The body (Khat) and its double (Ka) constitute the physical part of man; the soul (Ba) was comprised of the mind and feelings which had its seat in the heart (Ab) with a vehicle of its own called the shadow (Khabit); the spirit (Khu) was the divine/immortal part of man which had its seat in the name (Ren) and a conceptual body (Sahu) which derives its manifestation from the power (Sekhem) which provided vitality for the lower vehicles.
Therefore, later Egyptian belief was that man had three parts–a body, soul and spirit. The soul and spirit of the righteous passed from the body and then resided for eternity in heaven, but the physical body did not rise again and was believed never to leave the tomb. As stated in the Vth dynasty, about 2400 BCE: “The soul to heaven; the body to earth.”
Genesis 3:19: …till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you shall return.
I Corinthians 15:40-53: There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies, but the glory of the celestial is one and the glory of the terrestrial is another…However, the spirit is not first, but the natural and afterward the spiritual
…Now I say brethren that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God…for this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality…then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
John 3:6-7 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit if spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.”
Judgment and the Afterlife
The gods that lived in the Hall of Judgment with Osiris were forty-two in number. As the deceased passed each, he addressed him by his name and declared that he had not committed a certain sin. After pronouncing the name of each god, the deceased always said, “I have not done…” and the whole group of addresses has been called the “Negative Confession.” The fundamental ideas of religion and morality which underlie this confession are exceedingly old, and from it can be discerned the ancient Egyptians’ duty toward God and neighbor. The following is the soul in the Hall of Judgment:
Homage to Thee, O great God, Lord of Maati! I have come to unto thee, O my Lord, and I have brought myself hither that I may behold thy beauties. I know thee, I know thy name. I know the names of the forty-two Gods who live with thee in the Hall of Maati…I have not committed sins against men…
For consideration, the following are some of the negative confessions compared with the Ten Commandments from The Second Book of Moses –Exodus:
I have not uttered blasphemies against God.
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
I have not opposed my family and kinfolk.
Honor your father and mother.
I have slain neither man nor woman.
You shall not murder.
I have not committed fornication.
You shall not commit adultery.
I have not committed theft.
You shall not steal.
I have not uttered falsehood.
You shall not bear false witness.
I have invaded no man’s land.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house…nor anything that is your neighbor’s. (ii)
The belief that the deeds done while in the body would be subjected to analysis by the divine powers after death belongs to the earliest period of Egyptian civilization. All the evidence shows that each soul was judged individually and was either permitted to pass into the kingdom of Osiris or was destroyed. The Egyptian underworld, or Amentet, also contained a region where the souls of the wicked were punished for an indefinite period of time. It has been said that the judgment of the dead was determined, in the presence of Osiris, by weighing the deceased in the balance against his own heart. As Osiris weighed the heart of the dead, Maat, the goddess of Truth and Justice, balanced the scale. If the heart of the deceased weighed true, he went to his eternal reward in a blessed afterlife. If his heart weighed too heavy, he would be thrown to the animal gods who tore him to shreds. Consider the following:
Romans 14:10-12: …For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ…so then each of us shall give account of himself to God.
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body according to what he has done whether good or bad.
I Peter 4:5 They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
Matthew 12:36, 37: A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.
2 Thessalonians 1:8-9: …in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God…These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.
Matthew 26:46: And these [the unrighteous] will go away into everlasting punishment but the righteous into eternal life.
The harmony between the ancient Egyptian religion and that of Judaism and Christianity gave this student pause, and from this pause came the dawning of understanding as to the origin and evolution of all religions–the mind of man. Parallels can be traced between one nation’s god and another’s, and this is because perceptions of Divinity are projections of man’s own psychic needs. Humanity casts a reflection of itself onto the backdrop of the unknown and peoples it with the images of its own characteristics. What has been called religion, in the past and in the present, is simply the personifications of the mind’s own conceiving and answers only to the desires of the humanity who dreamt it into being. While all religions contain within themselves the seeds of Truth, they are, nonetheless, only man’s attempt to interpret the Mind of God.
The Bible, New King James Version
“Egyptian Magic,” Florence Farr
“Egyptian Religion,” E. A. Wallis Budge
“Essays on Ancient Egypt, The Egyptian Culture Reflected in Worship,” Deborah Howard
“The Gods of the Egyptians,” Volumes I and II, E. A. Wallis Budge
“Magic and the Western Mind,” Gareth Knight
i. Aroueris (Horus the Elder) was born on the second day and Typhon, forcing his way through a wound on his mother’s side, was born on the third. Isis was born upon the fourth in the marshes of Egypt and Nephthys was upon the fifth.
ii. The commandments omitted are respectively: Commandment #1: You shall have no other gods before Me. Commandment #2: You shall not make for yourself any graven image… Commandment #4: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Copyright © 1997 – 2021 by Jayne Gibson