The Holy Family

Tutankhamun was described in his tomb, as we saw earlier, as "the eldest son of Aten in Heaven." The young king-to-be was given the name Tut-ankh-aten when he was born. The three elements in his birth name—Tut (image), ankh (the Egyptian cross, the symbol of life) and Aten (the Egyptian equivalent of Adonai, "the Lord" in Hebrew)—mean that it is to be translated as "the living image of the Lord." Thus he was looked upon as the Son of God from the time of his birth—or perhaps even before it, as it was the custom of Egyptian kings to choose names for their children before they were born.

After the religious reforms of his early years—opening the temples, allowing the ancient gods of Egypt to be worshipped again and changing his name to Tutankhamun and his wife's to Ankhsenpa-amun in honor of the state god Amun-ra—Tutankhamun embarked in his Year 9 on an ecumenical mission to Sinai to try to persuade his father, Akhenaten (Moses) and his followers to return to Egypt where they could live in peace if they accepted the religious changes he had made, and that other people could have their own form of worship.

We find an echo of this mission on behalf of tolerance and peace in Matthew's gospel account (Chapter 5) of the Sermon on the Mount given by Jesus: "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God . . . Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil . . . Agree with thine adversary quickly ... Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also ... Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you . . . That ye may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven." One can also sense the supplication of Tutankhamun, ruling over two peoples divided by race and religion, in the words of the Lord's Prayer that follows: "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us . . ."

However, instead of his pleas being accepted, he was accused of betraying his faith and killed—at a time when the vast majority of Israelites were still at Goshen in Egypt and cannot be said to have had any responsibility for, or even any possibility of being aware of, events that have since haunted the Jewish people for more than 3,000 years.

Despite various efforts to mask the truth about these events, memories of them—and of many of the personalities involved—survived down the centuries and were echoed in the New Testament gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John when they retold the story as if the life, suffering and death of Jesus had taken place in the first century A.D., the start of the Christian era.

Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Two women named Mary are placed in a close relationship with Jesus in the New Testament—his mother and Mary Magdalene. The Greek version of the name is Maria, the Hebrew is Miriam, but its origins lie in Ancient Egypt where the word mery means "the beloved."

This epithet is also applied to Nefertiti, the mother of Tutankhamun, and to Ankhsenpa-aten, his wife. His mother's name, Nefertiti, means "the beautiful one who has come." From her celebrated head in the Berlin Museum it is clear that she was indeed a beautiful woman. It is also known that she had a beautiful voice: she used to sing the evening prayers at the Aten temple in Amarna (see Plates 24 & 25).

Before the birth of Tutankhamun, she had three daughters, and another three afterward. No evidence of other sons has been found. In the tombs of Amarna Nefertiti assumed many qualities of Isis, the Ancient Egyptian mother-figure and mother of the falcon god Horus, and Nefertiti's figure replaced that of the goddess on the Amarna sarcophagi. For instance, it is to be found instead of the image of Isis on the sarcophagus of Akhenaten. Furthermore, there are statues in Rome, originally made in the first century a.d. to represent Isis and her son, which were used by the early Church to represent Mary and her son.

The other Mary, apparently related emotionally to Jesus, appears to be a younger woman, Mary Magdalene. Her first appearance in the gospels is as an unnamed sinner: "And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box and poured it on his head" (Mark 14:3). For his part, Luke has her anointing the feet of Jesus: "And she stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment" (Luke 7:38) (see Plate 21). Subsequently, the name of Mary Magdalene appears among those who followed Jesus and remained close to him until after his death. Although no satisfactory explanation is given, she was clearly very attached to him. She remained by the temporary burial place where he was placed after his death and is described as having encountered Jesus after the Resurrection: "Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God" (John 20:16-17).

This Mary can only have been Ankhsenpa-aten, Tutankhamun's queen. Alabaster ointment jars were found in the king's tomb and she is represented at the back of the royal throne anointing him with perfume, exactly as the evangelists say. In four other scenes found on objects in the tomb, the couple are represented together, always in relaxed, romantic scenes. We can see how closely she was attached to his person in the very same manner that Mary Magdalene is described in the gospels.

The epithet "Magdalene" has been explained by saying that she belonged to the city of Magdala, an unidentified location on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. On the other hand we know from both biblical and Egyptian sources of such named locations at the time of Tutankhamun. The Hebrew word migdol means "watch-tower" and indicates a fortified city. Such a city is recorded as having been the second military post to the east of Zarw on the Road of Horus, leading from Egypt to Gaza. This location is shown on Seti I's road map in his Hypostyle Hall at Karnak and is mentioned in many Egyptian texts.

The Gospel of Mary, one of the Gnostic gospels found in a cave at

Nag Hammadi in upper Egypt in 1945,* depicts Mary Magdalene as the one favored with visions and insight: "Peter said to Mary, 'Sister, we know that the Saviour loved you more than the rest of women. Tell us the words of the Saviour which you remember . . .' Mary answered and said, 'What is hidden from you I will proclaim to you.' . . . 'I,' she said, 'saw the Lord in a vision and I said to him, "Lord, I saw you today in a vision." He answered and said to me, "Blessed are you, that you did not waver at the sight of me. For where the mind is, there is the treasure." I said to him, "Lord, now does he who sees the vision see it [through] the soul [or] through the spirit?" The Saviour answered and said, "He does not see through the soul nor, through the spirit, but the mind which [is] between the two (The Gospel of Mary,

The Dialogue of the Saviour, another Nag Hammadi text, praises Mary Magdalene as the apostle who excels all the rest. The Gospel of Philip, a third document, speaks of the intimate relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene: "There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary his mother and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother . . . were each a Mary" (59:6-10). It goes on to say: "And the companion of the [Saviour is] Mary Magdalene. [But Christ loved] her more than [all] the disciples and used to kiss her [often] on her [mouth]" (63:34-35). Here we find three women named Mary—his mother, his sister and his companion—but it seems that both his sister and his companion are one person, his sister-wife.

Apart from a visit to Jerusalem when he was 12 (Luke 2:42-43), the gospels do not tell us anything about the childhood of Jesus. Two of them, as we have seen, do not even mention his birth. However, there is no reason to suppose that he could not have married during this time. The evangelists were mainly concerned to convey his teachings and message rather than give details of his personal life. Even details of his mother's life are absent from the New Testament: this does not mean that she had no life to be reported but simply indicates that it was outside the scope of the gospels. In fact, John's account of Mary Magdalene and the Resurrection reflects a verifiable historical event. Ankhsenpa-aten, being both the wife and queen of Tutankhamun, was the only person who could attend his funerary rites, see him as he was declared risen from the dead by the priests during their mummification ritual and bear the news to the "disciples."

*The significance of the Nag Hammadi documents (touched upon earlier) is dealt with in a later chapter.

The fact that Jesus's disciples at the time of John the Baptist are the ones mentioned in the gospels does not mean that the historical Jesus did not have disciples during his lifetime. In every generation from the time he lived there was a group of followers and disciples who kept his memory and teachings alive until they were brought into the open through John the Baptist's death.* The first 12 could have been his ministers.

As for brothers, we know from evidence of diplomatic communications with the Hittite kingdom of Asia Minor that Tutankhamun died without an heir. Howard Carter makes the point in his book The Tomb of Tutankhamun: "Tutankhamun died without [male] issue, which accords with the claim [made by his widow] that she had no son to succeed to the throne."

The Two Josephs. The gospels feature two Josephs. One is described as a carpenter, descended from the House of David, and the stepfather of Jesus. Of the four gospel authors, only Matthew and Luke mention this Joseph, who disappears from the scene before the ministry of Christ. Nothing is said about his fate. The second person bearing the name is Joseph of Arimathaea, who is said to have been rich, a man of authority, a disciple of Jesus, and to have appeared suddenly after the Crucifixion to demand the body of Jesus for burial. I believe they are to be identified as the same person—Aye (Ephraim), Tutankhamun's great-uncle, vizier and successor on the throne (whom we met in Chapter 5).

The disappearance of the first Joseph, completely unexplained, is matched only by the sudden appearance of the second Joseph: "When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus's disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus . . . And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock . . ." (Matthew 27:57-60). Mark gives us a little more information about him: "Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom . .. went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus . . . And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped

*The Baptist, according to his behavior, was a member of the Essene, Jewish-Christian sect of Qumran, which also indicates the early Jerusalem Christian Church of Peter and James. The reason he came into the open in this period was the Roman occupation of Jerusalem and the new tax they forced on the Jews, which is the same reason for the rebellion of Judas in a.d. 6. The Baptist was a contemporary person to these events, and his account was not included in the gospels before the second century A.D., as part of the Orthodox effort to turn the spiritual appearance of Christ into history.

him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock" (15:43, 46). From these passages we know that Joseph arrived on the scene on the evening of Christ's death; he was a follower of Jesus; he was also a member of the Israelite leadership; he had sufficient authority to demand the body and have his wish granted; he "waited for"—that is, "was near to"—the kingdom.

This mysterious character has much in common with Aye, who also had authority and was near to the kingdom. It is also significant that Ephraim is identified in the Book of Hosea as the avenger responsible for the "plague" to punish Phinehas and his followers after the Sinai assassination: "When Ephraim spake trembling"—the sense here, given in other translations, is caused others to tremble—"he exalted himself in Israel . . ." (13:1).

These passages, if taken in conjunction with the statement in Isaiah that the Suffering Servant "made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich," indicate that Aye took the body of Tutankhamun after his death at the foot of Mount Sinai and buried him in a tomb—a second tomb, not the one later usurped by Horemheb—that was not originally his but was meant for Aye himself, hewn out of the rock in the Valley of the Kings. The archaeological evidence supports this view. Certainly there is no doubt that Aye supervised the young king's burial. Donald Redford makes the point in his book Akhenaten the Heretic King: "It was King Aye, Tutankhamun's successor, who buried our monarch, for there, on the inner walls of Tutankhamun's tomb-chamber, Aye, as king, has caused himself to be represented among the religious scenes, officiating before Tutankhamun, a scene unprecedented in the royal tombs of this necropolis."

We find many echoes of those distant days in Christian beliefs, traditions and ritual:

Resurrection. From as early as the thirty-first century B.C., Egyptians believed that a human being consisted of spiritual as well as physical elements. They regarded death as the departure of the spiritual element from the body, but also believed that, if the physical being could be kept safe and protected by magic formulas, the spirit would return to the body at some point in the future and the person concerned would lead a second life. That is why they devoted such care to preserving a dead body by mummification and building secure tombs to keep it safe. Osiris, whom they looked upon as one of their ancient kings, was said to have been killed by his brother Set, who dismembered the body of Osiris to deny him a second life. However, his wife, Isis, was able to collect the various mem bers and, with her magic, restore him to life three days later—not on earth but in the underworld, where he became the god and judge of the dead. The account of the Resurrection of Jesus is in many ways similar to that of Osiris. Like Osiris, he is said to have been killed on a Friday and risen on the third day. The Osiris worshippers of ancient Egypt believed, as did the early Christians, that man cannot be saved by a remote omnipotent deity, but by one who has shared the experience of human suffering and death. Osiris became the savior to whom men and women turned for assurance of immortality.

Akhenaten (Moses) abolished the worship of Osiris as well as other ancient Egyptian gods and never spoke of an afterlife. However, followers of Christ, the Essenes among them, believed—unlike the rest of the Jews—in life after death. This revived belief in the eternal existence of the spirit and judgment after death can be traced to the historical Jesus himself. Tutankhamun accepted the Osiris belief in an afterlife and made Aten the God of both life and death. This is reflected in his tomb where, in complete contrast to the teachings of Moses, he is shown resurrected and alive, facing Aye.

Tutankhaten's Change of Name. This change of name is referred to in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Book of Isaiah we find three references to Immanuel, including "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and call his name Immanuel" (7:14). Opinions differ about the significance of the name. The Jewish interpretation is that the reference does not indicate the Messiah and is not even a proper noun. However, the evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls shows that the Qumran Essenes looked upon it as a name. The evangelist Matthew also considered it a name, a synonym for Jesus: "Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" (1:22-23).

As we saw earlier, because Hebrew has no tenses, the way a statement is translated often reflects the beliefs of the translator. An early Christian such as Matthew, who believed that the Virgin Birth had taken place in the first century A.D., would therefore take the view that Isaiah, writing several centuries earlier, was making a prophecy rather than recording an event that had already taken place. Matthew is also mistaken in his interpretation of the name Emmanuel/ which is arrived at by dividing the word into

*As this is a Semitic name, it is sometimes written with an I, and sometimes with an E.

two elements—Emma-nu (with us) and El (Elohim, God). While this reading is possible, another is here intended: Imman-u (his Amun) El (is God). Use of the word "virgin" in the translation is also a distortion of what Isaiah was actually saying.

The Egyptian word amun, as well as being the name of the state god, means "hidden" or "unseen": the Hebrew equivalent is alam. Isaiah used alma, the feminine form of alam, in his verse about the birth of Immanuel. While alma can be translated as either "a young girl" or "virgin" it is also a feminine form of "the hidden one" (God). The reason why both the Essenes and early Christians insisted on relating the verse to the Messiah is that they interpreted correctly the sense in which Isaiah was using the word—to indicate a feminine aspect of the hidden power of God. God is presented as three persons, God the Father, God the Mother and God the Son. To make this clear, I believe that the following translation is closer to the literal sense of the Hebrew text: "Therefore Adonai (Aten) gives himself to you as a sign. Behold, Alma (the hidden one) conceived, a son is born, and she (the hidden one) called his name Amun-u-el." Thus the word Amun was used here to indicate an aspect of the "hidden" Adonai (Lord).

Although Matthew, as well as later Christian writers, took the view that Immanuel is a synonym for Jesus, no clear explanation has hitherto been given, and it is only when we examine the events in the life of Tutankhamun, the historical Christ, that the meaning becomes clear.

It has been suggested that part of the reason for proclamation of the Virgin Birth, based upon the words of Isaiah, was to popularize Christianity among the Gentiles. The Greeks, for instance, believed that the human Semele, the mother of Dionysos, was impregnated by their chief god, Zeus. Thus we find Justin Martyr, one of the early Church Fathers, explaining to them in the middle of the second century A.D.: "In saying that the word . . . was born for us without sexual union, as Jesus Christ our teacher ... we introduce nothing new beyond [what you say of] those whom you call sons of Zeus."

Amen. In his book about Isis and Osiris, Plutarch, the Roman historian of the second half of the first century A.D., states that "when the Egyptians name the supreme God, whom they believe to be one with the universe, they call him Amun."

The word amen, used as a response to prayers, almost certainly has as its source the word "amun," used by Isaiah to mean "the hidden one." Both words were written amn in ancient Egyptian. The word "amen" is found in the Old Testament ("And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God.

And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands; and they bowed their faces to the ground" [Nehemiah 8:6]) and the New Testament, where it appears 77 times and St. Paul uses it in prayer ("when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest" [I Corinthians 14:16]). The word, frequently rendered as "verily" or "truly" in English, is used as a response to both Christian and Jewish prayers and by Muslims after every recital of the first Sura (chapter) of the Koran.

Angels and Saints. Realizing that most ordinary people could not grasp the abstract idea of a God who does not manifest himself in a seen image, or favor one nation more than another, Tutankhamun allowed the return of the old deities. Close examination of his religious reforms shows that he did not regard them as gods, but as angels in the heavenly world of Aten.

Although Tutankhamun still regarded Aten as the one and only God who had no image, he realized that his people needed some visual representation of the deity to communicate with. So he allowed the old temples to be reopened and old deities to be worshipped. But, as Aten was confirmed in his unique position, these deities were but mediators between him and ordinary people, angelic beings in the heavenly world of God. In fact this was the starting point for the recognition of angels, and gradually the word "gods" in the plural was replaced by the word "angels." Tutankhamun made another very important development in the Aten cult, when he accepted Osiris and his underworld as part of the Aten belief. Neither Moses nor Akhenaten was ever reported to have spoken of life after death and the underworld, which was at the center of all ancient Egyptian religious belief.

A fragment of the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32, found in a cave at Qumran, includes a text of Verse 43 that mentions the word "gods" in the plural: "Rejoice, O heavens, with him; and do obeisance to him, ye gods." William Brownless, the American biblical scholar, makes the point in his book The Meaning of the Qumran Scrolls for the Bible: "When the passage is quoted in the New Testament (Hebrews 1:6), the phrase is appropriately rendered 'angels of God.'" The immediate popular response to Tutankhamun's reformation was fantastic, as ordinary Egyptians welcomed the change. But it was not given enough time for its true significance to be absorbed, as his death meant the complete dismissal of Aten, which in turn meant that the deities were once more recognized as gods.

Ritual. Howard Carter also reported that he found a great many ritual links with Christianity in the tomb of Tutankhamun. Among them were two gala robes and a pair of gloves similar to those later used by priests of the Roman Catholic Church: "The two garments, which I have chosen to call gala robes, recall official vestments of the character of priestly apparel, such as the dalmatic worn by deacons and bishops of the Christian church, or by kings and emperors at coronations . . . They take the form of a long, loose vestment, having richly ornamented tapestry-woven decoration with fringes on both sides . . .

"Perhaps they were worn on special occasions . . . and . . . they were a symbol of joy, very much in the manner of the dalmatic placed upon a deacon when the holy order was conferred, whereby the following words are repeated: 'May the Lord clothe thee in the Tunic of Joy and the Garment of Rejoicing.' Moreover, these robes may well have had the same origin as the Roman garment, whence the liturgical vestment—the dalmatic—of the Christian church derives."

The pair of gloves, according to Carter, were in a much better state of preservation, "neatly folded, also of tapestry-woven linen. They were possibly intended to go with the robes (a Roman Catholic bishop wears gloves when pontificating—also buskins, tunic and dalmatic under his chasuble) and are similarly woven with a brilliant scale-pattern and have a border at the wrist of alternate lotus buds and flowers." Other objects included "a number of ostrich-feathers, recalling the flabella still used at a papal procession in Rome, such as was witnessed in the Eucharistic procession of His Holiness the Pope in July 1929. These fans, like the pontifical flabella, were carried by grooms-in-waiting in Pharaonic processions, or were held beside the throne, and appear always on either side of the king or immediately behind him."

Transfiguration. The shining face of the Transfiguration is ascribed to Tutankhamun on one of the objects found in his tomb. A royal scepter, used in connection with offerings, bears this text: "The Beautiful God, beloved, dazzling of face like the Aten when it shines . . . Tutankhamun."

The Crown of Thorns. The tomb contained fruits and seeds of Christ-thorn, a tree like a hawthorn, native to Ancient Egypt, used for food, medicine and timber, and also believed to have had religious significance. It is said to have been used for Christ's crown of thorns: "And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head . . ." (John 19:2).

The Three Wise Men. Evidence discovered elsewhere in the Valley of the Kings throws light on the story found in Matthew about the three wise men who came from foreign countries to offer presents as well as pay homage to the newborn king. This is a story of Egyptian origin. During the time of the Empire, when Egypt had control over most of western Asia as well as Nubia and part of northern Sudan, such visits and gifts were common.

A box, found in a room to the north of the tomb of Horemheb in the Valley of the Kings, contained several pieces of gold leaf bearing the names of Tutankhamun and Aye, clues that eventually contributed to discovery of the young king's tomb as well as pointing to the source of the story of the three wise men. One of these pieces of gold leaf had the two royal cartouches of Aye on the left side, faced on the right side by three foreigners whose arms are raised in a position of adoration toward the king's names.

"The first has a large beard and thick hair falling on the neck; his garment is ornamented with dotted designs forming circles above and squares below; the cape and broad girdle are also decorated," wrote Gaston Maspero and George Daressy in their book The Tombs of Haramhabi and Toutankhamanou. "This is the typical type of the Syrian from the Mediterranean coasts. The second has the hair arranged in tiers and surmounted by a feather, the collar fits closely to the neck, the scarf crosses the breast, and the robe falls in straight folds. He is undoubtedly a negro of the Sudan. The third wears a pointed beard; in his flowing hair are fixed two plumes; a large cloak envelops the body, leaving the limbs bare. It is in this way that, in the tombs of the kings and other ethnological pictures, are represented the ... white-skinned races of the North, Libyans of Marmrica and inhabitants of the Mediterranean islands. Here, then, is a representation of the three biblical races, Shem, Ham and Japhet"—and the source of the story of the three wise men, who represented different peoples of the ancient known world.


Although the Glory of Christ appeared to his disciples in the early part of the first century A.D., historical Jesus had lived and died 14 centuries earlier. Up to the sixteenth century A.D., when the Old Testament books were translated from the Masoretic Hebrew text into modern European languages, Jesus was the name of the prophet who succeeded Moses as leader of the Israelites in Egypt. Since the sixteenth century we started to have two names, Jesus and Joshua, which confused people into the belief that they

154 Christ the King were two different characters. All those who spoke of Jesus in the early history of the Church recognized in this name only one person, who (according to John 1:45) was the name "of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write." As this Jesus of history was put to death at the foot of Mount Sinai, at the same position as the present monastery of St. Catherine, his followers kept his memory alive over the centuries, awaiting his return. And he did return when he appeared in his glory to his disciples in Egypt and Palestine in the early years of the first century a.d.

Tutankhamun's tomb was discovered, with his body inside his coffin, about 2,000 years after the appearance of Christ. Like him, he was killed at the foot of Mount Sinai when he attempted to reconcile those who believed in one God without an image and those who needed an image to mediate between them and the unseen deity. He was accused of being a deceiver who tried to turn the Israelites to worshipping other gods and was hanged on a tree (according to ancient Israelite law) by Panehesy, the high priest of Akhenaten.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
The Art Of Astrology

The Art Of Astrology

Get All The Support And Guidance You Need To Be A Success With Astrology. This Book Is One Of The Most Valuable Resources In The World When It Comes To A Look at Principles and Practices.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment