Egyptian Influence on Judaism and essay

  • Length: 14 pages
  • Sources: 8
  • Subject: Mythology - Religion
  • Type: essay
  • Paper: #4363538

Excerpt from essay :

. This was to lead to the inevitable interaction and cross -- cultural pollination between the cultures. Kline states that; " No wonder that such a large number of Egyptian loan words, phrases and intellectual ideas should be preserved in the Old Testament, along with a large number of idiomatic expressions, and two Egyptian units of measure" (Kline). However, while cultural interaction and the adoption of various phrases and words is not denied by most scholars, what is contested and debated is the extent to which this cultural interaction influenced and impacted the development of the religious foundations of both Judaism and Christianity.

4. How Egypt influenced customs and practices; fact vs. myth

There are numerous examples in the literature that refer to a more extensive cultural intersection and interaction with the Egyptian civilization. One can refer to the view that the name of the Divine Unity in this regard. The Egyptian term NUK PU NUK, "I am the I am," is identical to the meaning of Jehovah or Jahveh in Exodus. (Influence of Egypt on Judaism and Christianity) This correspondence between the two terms is not strange if we accept the view put forward by Gabriel (2002) that early Judaism was deeply influenced by the radical changes in Egyptian theology that was brought about by Akhenaten. This is a view that will be explored in detail in this paper, as it implies a much greater influence on both Judaic and Christian origins that is commonly held to be the case.

There are many other examples of the influence of Egyptian culture that are clearly evident in easily Judaism and Christian thinking. Some critics refer to the Jewish ritual of circumcision as having African and Egyptian origins."The rite of circumcision was probably adopted by the Jews from the Egyptians, who received it from the natives of Africa." (Influence of Egypt on Judaism and Christianity ) However, Gabriel ( 2002) and others point out that while circumcision was a practiced to some extent in Egyptian culture it had no religious significance. Nevertheless, it is an indication of how the Jewish people may have adopted and incorporated certain Egyptian cultural practices into their own cultural and religious practices.

Other cultural influences include speculation that the Cherubim of the Jewish faith were inspired by Egyptian culture. Some see a link between this religious symbol and the Sphinx. "The Sphinx was the solemn sentinel, placed to watch the temple and the tomb, as the Cherubim watched the gates of Paradise after the expulsion of Adam." (Influence of Egypt on Judaism and Christianity) Another similarity that has been discerned is that, "The Egyptians had in their temples a special interior sanctuary, more holy than the rest. So the Jews had their Holy of Holies, into which only the high-priest went, separated by a veil from the other parts of the Temple." (Influence of Egypt on Judaism and Christianity)

Egyptian influence can also be found in many Christian rituals and ceremonies. For example, the use of the gold ring as a sign of marriage fidelity and love was a custom practiced by the Egyptians. It was seen as a token and as symbol of trust."Clemens tells us that this custom was derived by the Christians from the Egyptians." (Influence of Egypt on Judaism and Christianity) There are many other ritual correspondences between Christian and Egyptian culture; for example, the shaven heads of Catholic sand Egyptian priests and;

The Episcopal minister's linen surplice for reading the Liturgy is taken from the dress of obligation, made of linen, worn by the priest in Egypt. Two thousand years before the Pope assumed to hold the keys, there was an Egyptian priest at Thebes with the title of "Keeper of the two doors of Heaven." (Influence of Egypt on Judaism and Christianity),

However, these correspondences do not go to the root of the matter- which is the extent of Egyptian religious and theological influence on both Judaism and Christianity

4.1. Akhenaten

Akhenaten, also known as the Egyptian heretic king, broke away for the views of the past in his renovation of Egyptian theology. His"… theology broke completely with traditional Egyptian religion, setting in its place a notion of god and man that was radically different from anything Egypt had witnessed previously." (Gabriel 190) it is the influence of this king that many experts claim has gone largely unrecognized as a primary and fundamental influence on the development of Mosaic Judaism and later on Christianity.

The common myth is that Moses was instrumental in developing a theology that was monotheistic and which opposed to the polytheism of other cultures. This is an indentifying characteristic of both Judaism and Christianity. However, the facts would suggest that the beginnings of the monotheistic view of spirituality in Judaism have its origins with the Egyptians, and particularly with Akhenaten. This view states that in reality Moses was influenced by the example set by the Egyptians. This point-of-view is discussed at length by Gabriel ( 2002). "Remarkably, the principles of Akhenaten's new theology bore a strong resemblance to the theological principles of Mosaic Judaism which, like Christianity, declared itself to be a revealed faith with no historical antecedents." (Gabriel 190)

Other sources also suggest the strong influence of Akhenaten's theology on Judaism. Kline, for example, states that, " & #8230;can there be any doubt that it was Pharaoh Akhenaten's Hymn to the Aten, written in the 14th century BC, that inspired Psalms 104:24 in the Old Testament?" ( Kline). He proceeds to provide a comparison which seems to show very strong similarities and which tends to suggest a direct influence on Hebrew thought.

Another argument that is used to suggest the influence of the Egyptian forms of theology on Judaism is that figures like Joseph were a prominent and integral part of the Egyptian society. "As befits a talented Habiru, the Bible tells of Joseph rising in pharaoh's court as an interpreter of dreams. Soon, he becomes a vizier, perhaps governing the Delta, and among the most powerful men in all Egypt. "(Gabriel 69). It therefore follows he would have imbibed and integrated Egyptian thought into his life and the lives of the Jews.

There can be no doubt that every high official of the Egyptian court was well aware of pharaoh's new religion so that at the very least Joseph, along with his tribe, would have known of the beliefs of the Atenist faith. (Gabriel 70)

Scholars like Gabriel assert that "…the Israelites assimilated to Egyptian culture is almost beyond dispute." (Gabriel 70) One should also bear in mind that many of the Biblical stories that have shaped both Judaic and Christian beliefs have been shown to be based on myths; for example, the story of the way that Moses was found as a baby. As Gabriel ( 2002) states, the story of Moses' discovery by the daughter of pharaoh is a regurgitation of a common mythical structure throughout the ancient world.

We have no knowledge of where in Egypt Moses was born. The claim that he was set adrift in a basket on the waters of the Nile to be found by pharaoh's daughter and raised at court can safely be ignored. This story is clearly a fabri- cation and contains elements that are common to the birth myths of many other heroes of the ancient world. (Gabriel 77)

However, there is a general consensus that the link between Egyptian culture and the development of Judaism can possibly be attributed to Moses. This is due to the fact that he was acculturated to Egyptian life and "…could just as easily have possessed knowledge of Egyptian religious beliefs." (Gabriel 81)

A further indication of the influence of Egyptian culture on Judaism, as well as on Christian beliefs, is the close similarity between the God of Akhenaten and the God of Moses.

Yahweh and Aten are gods of isolated glory who are their own wonders. It is their greatness and power that compel man to worship them and the threat of divine punishment is ever present. Neither offers a cosmology of justice or human meaning that can be comprehended by man. Absent are the old humane cosmologies that revealed the ways of god to man and made human life meaningful by explaining man's place in the universe. Yahweh and Aten are cold and remote, their motives and purposes known only to themselves or their prophets, Akhenaten and Moses. (Gabriel 91)

The above is quoted at length as it clearly indicates a telling and important link between the theology of Egypt and the origins do both the Judaic and Christian belief systems.

4.2. Christianity

Reference has also been made to the way that Egyptian culture was to influence Christianity. It is perhaps important to outline very briefly the differences between Judaism and Christianity. Christianity begins with…

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