One day in A.D. 391, the Roman-appointed Bishop Theophilus marched from his headquarters in the Brucheion Royal quarter of Alexandria, at the head of a large howling mob, heading west for the Serapeum in the heart of the Egyptian quarter of Rhakotis. The Serapeum, which had been the center of Egyptian worship for seven centuries, was adorned with extensive columned halls, almost breathing statues, and a great number of other works of art, as well as being the house of the Great Alexandrian library. The frenzied people rushed through the streets along the Canopic way, turning into the short street that led to the temple-area of Serapis, meeting other crowds there, before climbing up the great flight of marble steps, led by Bishop Theophilus. They jumped across the stone platform and into the temple, where the events of the final tragedy took place.
In their agitated mood, the angry mob took little heed of the gold and silver ornaments, the precious jewels, the priceless bronze and marble statues, the rare murals and tapestries, the carved and painted pillars of granite and many marbles, the ebony and scented woods, the ivory and exotic furniture—all were smashed to pieces with cries of pleasure. But that was not all. Those shouting men, full of demoniac delight, then turned to the library, where hundreds of thousands of papyrus rolls and parchments, inscribed with ancient wisdom and knowledge, were taken off their shelves, torn to pieces and thrown on to bonfires.
A few years later the last of the Alexandrian scholars was torn to pieces by a gang of Christian monks. On a Lenten day in March of the year A.D.
415 they stopped the carriage of Hypatia, who had succeeded her father as Professor of Philosophy in Alexandria, stripped her naked, dragged her into a nearby church, killed her, cut most of her flesh from her body with sharp oyster shells and burned what remained of her in the street. The charge against Hypatia, who had taught the philosophy of Plato, was heresy.
As a result of this barbaric killing of Alexandrian scholars and destruction of its library, which contained texts in Greek of all aspects of ancient wisdom and knowledge, the true Egyptian roots of Christianity and of Western civilization have been obscured for nearly 16 centuries. The aim of this book is to rediscover these roots, with the help of new historical and archaeological evidence.
We are going to show that the stories of both the Old and the New Testaments are firmly established on models of Ancient Egyptian historical facts. Not only that, but we will also show that the essential doctrines that Judaism and Christianity are credited with, in fact came out of Egypt. We are even going further to an area that will not be easy for the ordinary reader to accept, but that will become more convincing as the evidence of this book accumulates. All the central characters of both the Old Testament and the New Testament were actually real historical Egyptian figures, who lived in a different period than we have believed up till now.
Western scholars, whether Christian, Jewish or Atheist, tend to ignore Egyptian views when interpreting the accounts of ancient history. Even Manetho, the great Egyptian scholar responsible for the arrangement of the Alexandrian library, has been dismissed as unqualified to write about scientific matters to the Greeks. Commenting on an account that Manetho wrote in Epitome of Physical Doctrines, W. G. Waddell wrote:
That an Egyptian priest should seek to instruct the Greek-speaking world of his time in the history of Egypt and the religious beliefs of the Egyptians ... is not at all surprising, but it seems strange that Manetho should feel called upon, in the third century B.C., to compose an Epitome of Physical Doctrines with the apparent object of familiarizing the Greeks with Egyptian science.
Maneiho,Lcndcn, 1540, p. xxw
In addition, Islamic documents are completely disregarded as a source of ancient tradition, when arguing the history of biblical stories. This cannot be justified, for the stories in the Koran come from the same source as the books of the Bible. Moreover, the Koran accounts agree with those of the Bible in the majority of cases, which makes it more important to examine the reason for various points of divergence.
The time has come for Egypt's voice to be heard again. Because of my Islamic background, I feel confident that I am qualified to offer a balanced picture, which does not exclude any source from examination.
Until the destruction of its library in A.D. 391, Alexandria had remained the most important cultural center of the ancient world, and the focal point of the mutual influence exercised in the conjunction of Christianity and Hellenism, in spite of four centuries of Rome's political supremacy. Founded by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C., it was the first real cosmopolitan city in history, where Macedonians and Greeks lived together with Egyptians and Jews, and scholars flocked from all over the world to do their research. They came from Italy and Greece, from Anatolia and the Levant, from north Africa, Arabia, and even from Persia and India. Not only did they share a common habitation in Alexandria, they all had the same longing for knowledge and the same interest in philosophy and ancient wisdom, as represented in the teaching of Hermes Trismegistus* and the worship of Serapis. The city was also the center of Hellenistic Judaism. It was in Alexandria that Philo Judaeus, the first Jewish philosopher, wrote his 38 books in the first century A.D. The city had, in addition, the only library containing almost all the books of ancient civilizations, including the Greek text of the Old Testament. Hence it is not astonishing that Alexandria rapidly became the main Christian intellectual center.
The rich collection of ancient written knowledge in the Serapeum** proved irresistible for Diodorus Siculus, a Sicilian scholar, when he set out in the first century B.C., in the time of Julius Caesar, to research his ambitious Bibliotheca Historica—the "bookshelf of history." Diodorus, who
*Thoth, ancient Egyptian god of writing, became identified with the Greek god Hermes. Hermes Trismegistus means "Hermes the Thrice-greatest."
**The historian Ammanius Marcellinus (c. A.D. 330-391), who himself visited Alexandria, wrote about this temple: "the Serapeum, which, although no description can do it justice, yet is so adorned with extensive columned halls, with almost breathing statues, and a great number of other works of art, that next to the Capitolium, with which revered Rome elevates herself to eternity, the whole world beholds nothing more magnificent. In this were invaluable libraries. . . (22:16, 1213). The cult of Serapis will be examined in detail at the relevant stage of my argument, later in this book.
was an enthusiast of the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus (which have survived until today in the teachings of Islamic Sufis, Jewish Qabbalah and Christian Rosicrucians and Freemasons), became convinced of Egypt's importance as a source of knowledge. The Greek and Roman gods, he believed, had been born there, life had originated there, and there the first observations of the stars had been made. The last famous scholar associated with the Serapeum before its destruction was Theon, a celebrated mathematician whose recension of Euclid's Element was the only text of this work until the last century, and whose daughter Hypatia was to meet a terrible death at the hands of Theophilus's nephew Bishop Cyril.
Up to the end of the fourth century A.D., the time when the Alexandrian library was destroyed, Egypt was regarded as the holy land of the ancient world, the source of wisdom and knowledge where the gods became known for the first time. Pilgrims then, including Roman emperors, came from all over the world to worship in the temples of Isis and Serapis, as well as at the foot of Mount Sinai.
This situation came to an end, however, in the latter years of the reign of the emperor Theodosius I, who was zealous in his suppression of both paganism—the belief in the many gods of pre-Christianity—and heresy— any opinion contrary to orthodox doctrine. Emperor of the East (A.D. 379-392), and then sole emperor of East and West (a.d. 392-395), he enforced the Creed of the Council of Nicaea (a.d. 325) as a universal norm for Christian orthodoxy and directed the convening of the second general council at Constantinople in A.D. 381 to clarify the formula.
"It is our wish and pleasure that none of our subjects, whether magistrates or private citizens, however exalted or however humble may be their rank or condition, shall presume in any city or in any place to worship an inanimate idol ..." declared Theodosius in his last edict. Fanatical mobs of the Church then roamed the lands, razing old temples to the ground and plundering their wealth. Ancient tombs were desecrated, walls of monuments scraped clean of names and depictions of deities, statues toppled over and smashed. In Alexandria, Bishop Theophilus was as ambitious as the emperor, Theodosius I, who had appointed him. It was one of his zealous actions that led to the burning of an estimated half a million books stored in the Alexandrian library, described above.
Theophilus of Alexandria (A.D. 385-412) was one of the orthodox leaders who represented the imperial government dispatched from Rome to impose official orthodoxy on the Alexandrian Church. He led a campaign against paganism and heresy in Egypt that included destruction of the
Serapeum (the temple of Serapis—originally an ancient Egyptian god of the underworld, subsequently reintroduced as the official deity for Alexandria and Egypt by Ptolemy I [305-284 B.C.]) where the Alexandrian library was placed. The Serapeum, at the same time as being the center of worship for the ancient Egyptian trinity of Osiris, Isis and Horus, became a focal point for the emerging Christian Gnostic sects—those Christians who sought to gain spiritual knowledge through mysteries and the attempt to know oneself, interpreting the Scriptures allegorically.
The first Christian emperor, Constantine I (A.D. 324-337), had made Christianity the official religion of the Empire. He also granted political power to the Church. Bishops were not only recognized as councilors of state but obtained juridical rights: their solutions to civil suits were legally enforced. The bishops used their newly acquired power to spread the word of God and stamp out His enemies, who in this case were not only the pagans but the heretics—and Rome regarded Egyptian Christians as heretics. According to tradition, the Church of Alexandria was founded neither by St. Peter nor by St. Paul but by St. Mark the Evangelist, even before what is said to have been the first Apostolic Council of Jerusalem in c. A.D. 50 (mentioned in the Book of Acts, 15:28). The first theological school to be established in the world also flourished in Alexandria before the end of the second century A.D. and became an influential center of Christian scholarship. Among its directors were the famous Clement of Alexandria and Origen. Christian monasticism as an institution was initiated principally in Egypt by St. Antony the Copt (c. A.D. 251-356), who fled to the solitude of the western desert from his native village of Coma, not far from Tell al-Amarna, in Middle Egypt. Others followed his example and a monastic colony arose around his cave in the Red Sea mountains.
Although Alexandria made an important contribution in developing the first systematic Christian theology, the Alexandrian theologists were strongly influenced by the Neo-Platonists' philosophy.* Biblical exegesis at Alexandria was allegorical and mystical, following the same method as Philo Judaeus, who tried to harmonize philosophy and the Bible. From the start, Alexandrian exegesis did not attach to the literal sense of the Bible. Their primary interest was concentrated on the mystery of divine revelation revealed in the historical and literary details of the Old Testament. It was therefore a question of discovering Christ in the older revelation.
*Neo-Platonists were Alexandrian philosophers who followed the same philosophy as the Athenian Plato; Plotinus of the third century A.D. is the most celebrated.
The Alexandrian authors sought out in the Old Testament symbols of the New. For early Egyptian Christians, accepting one God was an evolutionary process in which the old system was assimilated into the new, and old deities became angelic beings and mediators between man and the unseen Lord (this will be examined in detail later). idols, for them, did not represent the deities themselves but were merely a physical form in which the spiritual beings could dwell during prayer. The Gnostic teachers found their followers at Alexandria, and much of the ecclesiastical history of this city was concerned with the heresies that appeared there.
The Serapeum, originally established by the Ptolemies (the Macedonian kings who ruled Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great), later became also a center for Gnostic communities, both Hermetic (i.e. adhering to the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus) and Christian. Some Gnostic Christian sects grew from within the cult of Serapis, who made no distinction between Christ and Serapis—this, too, will be explained as this book unfolds. The general library at the Serapeum gradually became a focal point for scholars and intellectuals, from all over the Roman Empire, whose views contradicted the teachings of the Church. For this reason it became regarded as heretical and had to be destroyed.
With the destruction of the Serapeum, not only Egyptian knowledge was lost; Mesopotamian, Syrian, Phoenician, Jewish and Greek learning also vanished. The whole scientific achievement of the old civilizations, regarded as heresy by Bishop Theophilus, disappeared in a single day—books on astronomy, anatomy, medicine, geometry, geography, history, philosophy, theology and literature, as well as copies of the early Gnostic gospels of Christ. The result was the beginning of the dark ages, which lasted for more than ten centuries after that. All branches of science, as well as heretical writings that did not adhere to the teaching of the orthodox Church, were forbidden by the state. This left the canonic books of the Scripture as the main source of Western knowledge until the Renaissance in the 15th century.
While the discovery of some remaining copies of old forbidden manuscripts, especially the Hermetic and Neo-Platonic philosophies, produced the age of the Western renaissance from the 15th century in art, science and technology, history had to wait for modern archaeologists to dig out old remains and inscribed papyrus rolls before we could regain our memory. In his book Archives In The Ancient World, Ernst Posner, the American historian, has said of the achievements of archaeologists during this period that they are "momentous—comparable in a way to the discovery of America ... a new dimension of almost two millennia has been added to the history of mankind as it was known in 1850 ... Now we can view with profound respect the cultural achievements of the countries surrounding the eastern Mediterranean, and we can begin to assess their interrelations with, and their possible influence on, the cultures of Greece and Rome."
I shall show how Egypt emerges as the birthplace of our spiritual teachers— from Imhotep, the first pyramid builder of the twenty-seventh century B.C., to Moses and Akhenaten, who first recognized one God, to the followers of Osiris (Egyptian god of the underworld and judge of the dead), Hermes Trismegistus and of Jesus Christ who looked for spiritual salvation and eternal life. Thanks to modern archaeologists, a new age now appears on the horizon, with Egypt restored to its original place.
It looks like a fulfillment of an old prophecy that predicted that woes will come upon Egypt, but also promised that order would finally be restored again. This prophecy is found in the Hermetic text of Asclepius, discovered among the Nag Hammadi library (detailed in Appendix 1 at the back of this book). Asclepius is a dialogue between the mystagogue Hermes Trismegistus and an initiate, Asclepius. In an apocalyptic section with significant Egyptian and Israelite parallels, the speaker predicts the fall, then rise again, of Egypt:
are you ignorant, O Asclepius, that Egypt is (the) image of heaven? Moreover, it is the dwelling place of heaven and all the forces that are in heaven. If it is proper for us to speak the truth, our land is (the) temple of the world. And it is proper for you not to be ignorant that a time will come in it (our land) (when) Egyptians will seem to have served the divinity in vain, and all their activity in their religion will be despised. For all divinity will leave Egypt and will flee upward to heaven. And Egypt will be widowed; it will be abandoned by the gods. For foreigners will come into Egypt, and they will rule it . . . And in that day the country that was more pious than all countries will become impious. No longer will it be full of temples, but it will be full of tombs . . . Egypt, lover of God, and the dwelling place of the gods, school of religion, will become an example of impiousness . . . [Then Egypt will be restored again.] And the lords of the earth ... will establish themselves in a city that is in a corner of Egypt that will be built toward the setting of the sun.
Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet of the sixth century B.C., confirms this prophecy and foretells the appearance of a savior in Egypt:
The burden of Egypt. Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it. And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour . . . And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof... In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the Lord. And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt . . . and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them.
Isaiah 19:1-3; 19-20
The Gospel of Matthew, in his account of the birth of Christ, confirmed that the savior foretold by Isaiah to appear in Egypt was the same character as Jesus. Matthew introduced the story of the holy family's flight into Egypt and, using the words of the prophet Hosea (11:1), announced the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy in him: "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son" (Matthew 2:15).
Helmut Koester, Professor of the History of Ancient Christianity at Harvard University, who was responsible for translating the Nag Hammadi Gospel of Thomas (which includes many previously unknown sayings of Christ) into English, spoke about the need for "a thorough and extensive revaluation of early Christian history." He went on to say: "The task is not limited to fresh reading of the known sources and a close scrutiny of the new texts in order to redefine their appropriate place within the conventional picture of the early Christian history. Rather it is the conventional picture itself that is called into question." That is what I shall address in this book.
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