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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Effect of Egyptian Thought and Theology on the Ancient 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
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
For consideration, the following is presented:
The Gods Became Angels
Just as the gods of Egypt represented aspects of Ra, the angels of the Old and New Testaments likewise represent aspects of God.
Osiris and Christ
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
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.
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
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 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.