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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Day 96 (Dangerous Conclusions)

[reaction to OYB's Oct. 22-25 readings]

Today's readings include Jeremiah speaking to the remnant of Judah left behind after the exile. It sounds like the twist will be the promise land is left for the regular people. "But Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard left behind in the land of Judah some of the poor people, wo owned nothing; and at that time he gave them vineyards and fields." (39:10) "When all the Jews in Moab, Ammon, Edom and all the other countries heard . . . they all came back to the land of Judah." (40:11-12) But then, it appears the remnant decides to head to Egypt following the murder of their leader, and God is not happy. (42:19-20) Once in Egypt they succumb to the ways of the foreign land, and thus, Jermiah treats us to long passages about how God will destroy the Egyptians, the Moabites (no love for Ruth, I guess), the Ammonites (at first but then they come back) and the Edomites. Quite specifically, Jeremiah 46:25 says, "The LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: "I am about to bring punishment on Amon god of Thebes, on Pharaoh, on Egypt and her gods and her kings, and on those who rely on Pharaoh." I point this out for my friend Matt who has directed me from time to time to authors speculating that the ties between Israel & Egypt are stronger than we might think, including some cultural borrowing. Amon--per Wikipedia--was the king of Egyptian gods whose dominance border on monotheism wherein other gods were seen as manifestations of Amon-Ra. Interesting.

In Second Timothy, Paul suggests dealing with competiting theologies more gently. "Those who oppose [God's servant] he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." (2:25-26) But, most strange is the reason Paul believes folks like Hymeneaus and Philetus have "wandered away from the truth." "They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some." (1:18)(emphasis added). Was Paul's talk of the Second Coming in the Epistle transformed into the resurrection stories in the Gospels? Probably not. Amon-Ra is also probably not the origin of YHWH. Seriously, these ideas are both probably wrong, and may illustrate the danger of reading the Bible without the aid of commentary.


Matt Dick said...

So much to say.

First of all, you point out one religion of Egypt. The culture by most definitions lasted just a little over 3,100 years. For perspective, it would be hard to call "Christianity" a coherent culture by any stretch, and it's only 66% as old.

Not that didn't know this, but I don't think Amun-Ra's reign as the king of gods is the kind of monotheism that I would say is shared with early Christians. It's only just to remind us all during this discourse that any description of Egypt and its perception of its own gods is a small slice of what has to be dozens or hundreds of discrete beliefs over that 3,000 years.

My views of a connection between early Christianity and Egypt come more from discussions of Osiris as Christ than from Amun-Ra as YHWH.

Also, it's inescapable (see the pun there) that basing your cultural identity in the story of having been oppressed by and escaping Egypt leaves inevitable echoes.

So some discussion of Osiris. He was known as the son of god, he was a loving god, a shepherd god, he would rise from the dead to inherit everlasting life.

There are entire books on the subject, so far be it from me to persuade, but the readings i've done were more than convincing. I think it's also persuasive that Osiris and Horus together became a YHWH/Christ legend.


JimII said...

I think this stuff is interesting. I think it is more credible than the semi-silly Jesus studied with Buddhist monks or the real secrets are discovered by totaling the numbers associated with the letters in the scripture.

I think there is a complex relationship between the various hero narratives of the ancient world. Just as we've acknowledged elsewhere that Jesus is described as doing things that serve the purpose of showing he is the new Moses or the new Elisha, I would not be surprised to learn that the birth narratives were influenced by Egyptian, Babylonian or Greek demi-god stories. And, of course, each of these myth systems influence each other. For example, it is well accepted that Matthew's use of the Greek translation of Isaiah (in the Septugent) resulted in his telling of a "virgin" rather than a "young girl" as being the mother of the redeemer. Only one example of Helenistic culture transforming the Christian story.

Matt Dick said...

Yes, I didn't mean to imply any of this was shocking. I actually think it is amazingly cool to see how they all work. Margot is studying Mesopotamia in school now, and their stories of great floods with arks and pairs of animals has led to some interesting conversations.