Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Was Christianity Also Conceived as a Reform Movement WITHIN Egyptian Paganism?

I know there are all kinds of semi-idiotic books arguing that Christianity developed from Egyptian paganism. Most of the people that write these books develop their premise from a shallow understanding of 'parallels' that exist between Egyptian paganism and Christianity - i.e. Jesus and Mary/Harpocrates and Isis etc.

My developing understanding is a little bit more sophisticated than this, I hope. I think the sect associated with Dositheus was the 'missing link' between Hebrew 'monotheism' and a messianic religious tradition later called 'Christianity' either because the adherents were 'of Christ' (i.e. following a Latin etymology) or 'of the little Christ' (Greek).

Not very many people have any real knowledge of the Dositheans. I happen to have a good friend who is one of the leading experts on the ancient Samaritan sects. I have forwarded some of the posts I have developed and he has given me the thumbs up as it were that nothing I am saying can be disproved by the existing evidence related to the sect and moreover what I am saying follows from the various references.

As I noted in a previous post, the Torah does not reference the names of the months in the Jewish calendar that we all know (Nisan, Tishrei etc). There are no references to any months having less days than thirty nor any total number of months more than twelve.

The Dositheans had a calendar of twelve thirty day months which I have suggested was the original Israelite model developed directly from the Egyptian calendar and the time they spent as slaves in that society.

I don't know enough about the Egyptian calendar to know if my theory about Pentecost being related to the Egyptian agricultural new year makes sense. I developed my ideas from an article written in the last century. That article is cited in Crown's The Samaritans.

There are a number of people who have theorized that the Dositheans preserved the earliest form of Hebrew worship. The calendar is key because of its POTENTIAL to go back to a pre-Babylonian Israelite cult that still had connections to Egypt and Egyptian tradition (or perhaps better yet a Semitic culture WITHIN ancient Egypt).

My overarching supposition is that:

(a) Christianity was developed at Alexandria
(b) that it reflected a development of Dosithean ideas related to the 360 calendar
and (c) more importantly, argued that it was as much a RESTORATION of the original beliefs of Israel BEFORE the corruption of the Golden Calf etc.

I still don't believe that the first Christians of Egypt promoted any belief directly associated with the ancient pagan gods of the land. Instead I think that it was recognized that Moses represented a break from that pagan past and that Christ was the fulfillment of an expectation that was common to the descendants of Israel and Egypt.

The reason I stress this is that I can't believe that the high level of Egyptian conversion to Christianity would have been possible if the religion argued that 'the Jews' (i.e. the modern representatives of the ancient religion of Moses) were 'correct.' I suspect that the central argument of Christianity was developed from common frames of reference (i.e. the crossing of the sea as an act of redemption) but developed with an Egyptian audience in mind.

Let me give my readers an example.

I think that Christian baptism was directed at Egyptians. It is inescapable that the ancient Israelites never actually touched the waters of the sea. The only people who were immersed in water as the seventh day went out into the eighth, the time the Egyptians were understood to have drowned.

I think the Marcionite interest in framing the ritual as a 'baptism on behalf of the dead' goes back to the dead Egyptians in the sea. I also suspect that secret Mark was the original baptism narrative out of which Egyptian Christianity developed its water immersion rituals. It also reinforces the 'seventh day going out into the eighth' too.

The traditional Samaritan understanding is that the gods of the Egyptians also died in the water. I think some symbolism was developed where these 'thirty powers' (Aram. hyl contains the eighth, tenth and twelfth letters of the Hebrew alphabet) went into the sea as the sun (i.e. the god of the Hebrews) went up from the underworld to start the eighth day.

But there are other little things which emerge from Bowman's discussion of Egyptian society that struck me as influencing earliest Christianity. I don't want to list all of them just yet. But some of the more striking manifest themselves in Bowman's discussion of the rules of ancient Egyptian society such as:

A characteristic feature of Egyptian practice (of dividing property) was the custom of dividing property between all children with little regard to sex or age. One natural result of this was a large proportion (for the ancient world) of female property owners [p. 131]

I know most people in this forum will probably be scratching their heads wondering where in the gospel is there any reference to women inheriting property like men but it actually comes from a much better source - Jewish eyewitness testimony from the late first century.

Mama (Imma) Salome, the wife of R. Eliezer and sister of Rab ban Gamaliel, had a philosopher as a neighbour, who had the reputation of taking no bribe. They wished to render him ridiculous. Mama accordingly brought him a golden candle-stick, presented herself before him and said: 'I should like to have a share in the property of my family.' The philosopher answered her: 'Then have thy share!' But Gamaliel said to him : 'We have the law: where there is a son, the daughter shall inherit nothing.' The philosopher said: 'Since the day when ye were driven out of your country, the Law of Moses is repealed and there is given the Gospel, in which it is said: Son and daughter shall inherit together.' [Bab. Shabbath 116 a]

This is of course merely scratching the surface. What I am wondering is whether there are others who have come across arguments that Christianity essentially wanted to 'restore' a lost Israelite tradition very much rooted in Egyptianism but (as I suspect) with a streamlined monotheistic sensibility.

Email stephan.h.huller@gmail.com with comments or questions.

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