Pert Em Heru / Kemetian Texts : Parallels Between Osiris and Jesus

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    The Pyramid Texts​

    by Ernest Moyer

    Some idea of how these myth elements were preserved by the Egyptians may be obtained by returning to an examination of the texts found on the walls of the pyramid tombs of the 5th and 6th dynasty. I quote from The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts by Faulkner. However the reader should be aware of the history of the Texts, and that Faulkner was not the first, nor the last, to provide translation variously in German, French, and English. As described by Faulkner:

    The first attempt at translation goes back to 1882, when, in Vol. iii of the Recueil de Travaux Relatifs a la Philologie et L'archeologie Egyptiennes et Assyriennes, Maspero began a series of printed hieroglyphic texts and accompanying translations from each pyramid in turn; this was a remarkable achievement when it is realized how little at that time was known of Egyptian grammar and vocabulary. These articles were later collected in one volume and published in 1899. under the title Les Inscriptions des pyramides de Saqqarah. In Igio there appeared the standard edition by Sethe of the hieroglyphic texts, in which they are grouped into Spruche - here called `Utterances', often abbreviated to `Utt.'- and the corresponding passages from the different pyramids are displayed in parallel in numbered sections, an arrangement essential to a satisfactory study of the inscriptions. This publication by Sethe consists of two volumes of hieroglyphic texts and two slimmer ones of Kritischer Apparat, (Critical Apparatus) etc., and it will remain the indispensable source for students of these ancient texts. In 1912 Breasted, using Sethe's text, incorporated very many quotations thence in his Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt; in 1923 Speleers published in French a translation and index in his Textes des Pyramides Egyptiennes; Sethe's German translation and commentary appeared posthumously over a period of some thirty years under the title Cbersetzung and Kommentar zu den altdgyptischen Pyramidentexten, while in 1952 Mercer published an English version in four volumes. Piankoff has recently published a study of the Pyramid of Unas in the Bollinger Series, but it came to my notice too late to be utilized here.

    I use Faulkner because of the convenience of his English translation. For comparison I use Mercer but he apparently translated from Sethe's German translation, rather than from the original Egyptian text. Where I have checked, he seems to have faithfully followed the Egyptian text. See The Pyramid Texts, Samuel Mercer, Longmans, Green and Co., New York, 1952. If Mercer shows a considerable variation with Faulkner in my reference passages I note the difference.

    I must make an observation about Faulkner. Because of his intense godless attitudes his vocabulary did not contain such words as heaven, prayerful, worshipful, holy, or sacred. He never would assign such religious realities to the ancient Egyptians. For him everything was cultic, superstitious, and primitive. Thus he titles the separate pieces of the Pyramid Texts as Utterances, following Sethe's Speeches. Sethe, Faulkner, and others did not accept them as hymns, odes, or prayers. But the word utter means to send forth as a sound, to pronounce, or to speak, merely of material import, without any relationship to things divine or heavenly. Thus these scholars completely eliminate the import of the fact of devout religious faith by which the ancient Egyptians accepted life and death. In the process they conditioned a vast array of other scholars and lay persons to their frame of mind. How unfortunate. Hence, I have changed the titles from Utterance to Hymn.

    I give a tabulation of excerpt from the Hymns. I selected to highlight certain elements that tell us about the origins of the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians. Click here to go to the tabulation of Pyramid Hymns.

    I then show parallels to Judeo-Christian traditions, as recorded in the Bible.

    A Note about translations:

    I have the tools to critique Hebrew and Greek translations; I do not have the tools to do the same with ancient Egyptian. Therefore I must depend on the integrity of the modern scholars who have performed this task for us. I accept their words and phrases except as I have noted above and in my other papers.

    Many persons may feel that random selection of passages to show parallels is not sound scholarship, that we should be guided by careful textual critique and hieroglyphic interpretation. But such view misses the whole point of the study. We are looking at how people expressed their religious beliefs. The Egyptians were just as sincere in regard to their religious history, even if pagan, as the later Hebrews and Christians were with theirs. The difference was an inheritance from a distant past that became corrupt and embellished over time, compared to a fresh contact with the heavenly realms recorded by Hebrews and Christians. The Egyptian record is from debased human memory; the Judeo-Christian record is from living experience.

    Modern scholarship refuses to accept that God and the gods are real; they believe that such beliefs had strictly evolutionary origins, and were generated from the psychological impulses of men. I do not address that crowd.

    The humanization of the gods into mortal physical, intellectual, moral, and religious attributes that gave rise to the folk myths of ancient times has been denounced since early Greek days.

    Xenophanes (570-475 BC) stood for religious reform. He believed that the traditional tales of the poets were directly responsible for the moral corruption of the time. He said that, "Homer and Hesiod have ascribed to the gods all things that are a shame and disgrace among mortals, stealing and adulteries and deceiving of another." He sharply criticized the widely accepted polytheism of the humanized gods in the Theogany of Hesiod and Homer.

    We cannot assign the origin of such attribution to Hesiod and Homer. They merely recorded the general understanding of contemporary people everywhere. The earliest recorded myths, not only from Egypt, but from also from Sumer, held this view. Oral folk traditions from the most ancient times held the same view. But we would be remiss in our intellectual integrity if we did not understand a natural human reaction to humanize celestial events. This fact is especially true because we do not have the gods presently coming down here to earth to correct our understanding, which, according to ancient traditions, they once did before they were called away. Hence we should understand the Egyptian stories in that light.

    Another aspect of the Egyptian religious mythical framework is the ancestry into remote antiquity. The elaborate, complicated, and detailed hymns could not have been carried merely by oral tradition; they had to have some written mechanism by which they were carried from generation to generation. We do not know when the elaboration took place; such humanizing probably required many generations. Without evidence we can only speculate on the origin, antiquity, and history of the accounts.

    Woven into this humanized framework is the story of Osiris. While we might see his story as part of the humanization process, we should recognize how the story was fashioned to record actual earth events. Repeated ascriptions to his human life, death and resurrection are found in the Pyramid Hymns.

    The Human Birth of Osiris

    Hymn 1:
    I say by Nut, the brilliant, the great: This is my son, my first-born, opener of my womb; this is my beloved, with whom I am pleased.

    This passage, first in the long sequence of Pyramid Text passages, is startling in its parallel with the New Testament record.

    Matt 3:17 -- And lo, a voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

    Thayer's Greek Lexicon of the New Testament says that the usage is peculiar to Biblical writers, followed by en tini, to be well pleased with, take pleasure in, a person or thing. Mercer translates satisfied where Faulkner uses pleased.
    We can see the striking parallels, with exact similarity of phrasing:

    PT -- This is my son, . . . my beloved, . . . with whom I am pleased.
    NT -- This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.

    We should note also the New Testament record about the unique nature of this Son, a record that strikes to the heart of the purpose of a divine incarnation.

    John 3:16-17 -- For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten (only-born) Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
    1 John 4:9-10 -- In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only begotten (only-born) Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
    This is a son.
    This is a divine son.
    This divine son is born as a human mortal.
    This is the first-born, or only-born, son.
    This son is beloved of a higher celestial personality.
    The higher celestial personality is well pleased with the human life of this divine son.

    We can clearly see from the New Testament record that the human birth of this celestial son is unique; there is no other like it, no other celestial personality who was born as a human mortal. The Egyptian record reflects the same belief, but confused in their memory with Horus and other gods. (Even though Jews and Christians do not recognize the biblical record, their sources also indicate the human birth of more than one divine son. Christians took that material and melded it all into the event of Jesus. I do not explore that evidence here.)

    Hymn 7: Nut says: The King is the son of my heart.
    Hymn 471: I am the essence of god, the son of god, the messenger of god.

    I have dropped the indefinite article "a" in this translation. I do not know if Sethe, Faulkner, Mercer, and Piankoff found it in the original text, or inserted it to satisfy their understanding. One can readily see the vast difference such a single alphabet letter can have on our understanding.
    This leads us into an observation about the human birth of Osiris. Nowhere in the Texts is there an explicit indication that his birth is human. References are to birth by Nut, (Nuit), the female god who represents the sky. In fact, explicit remarks are made otherwise:

    Hymn 412: The Great Maiden who dwells in On has placed for you her hands on you, because there is no mother of yours among men who could bear you, because there is no father of yours among men who could beget you.
    Hymn 438: Oho! Oho! I will make it for you, this shout of acclaim, O! my father, because you have no human father and you have no human mother; your father is the Great Wild Bull, your mother is the Maiden.

    This shows that the ancient Egyptians were loath to entertain the idea that Osiris was born as a man, from an earthly womb, conceived by earthly sperm. They reserved his birth to a celestial father and a heavenly mother. We know he must have been born on earth, in human form, otherwise how could he exist as a human being? If he did not have natural human birth he must have been created in human form on earth by the gods. (Consider similar concerns by Christians who made the conception of Jesus immaculate from the Holy Spirit and his birth pure from a virgin.) Yet many purely humanized expressions in the Pyramid Tests suggest otherwise. One cannot help but recognize that the references are to a human birth, and not a celestial birth.
    Hymns 427 to 435 are a short series in praises to Nut, the heavenly mother, which appear as substitutes for the earthly mother. We see such remarks as:

    Spread yourself over your son, Osiris; hide him; protect him.

    In 429 Nut is exhorted to

    . . . become spiritually mighty; you were physically mighty in the womb of your mother, Tefnut, before you were born.

    Here the reference has been displaced from the birth of the human mother of Osiris to the heavenly mother of Nut.

    Hymn 430:
    You were in the body of your mother, in your name of Nut.

    Hymn 431:
    Make the King mighty in your womb. He shall not die.

    432 is reminiscent of Christian attribution to Mary, mother of Jesus:

    To say: Great lady, who became heaven, you became mighty, you became victorious, you filled every place with your beauty. The whole Earth is under you; you have taken possession of it; you encompass the earth and all things therein in your arms; may you establish this King in you as an Imperishable Star.

    The other aspect of the birth of Osiris is repeated references to being the son of the Earth God, Geb.

    As the God of the earth, Geb was one of the most important of ancient Egypt's gods. His parents were Shu, the god of air, and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture, who were in turn the children of Atum. Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys were the children of Geb and Nut, and together these gods made up the Heliopolitan Enniad.
    After Atum, the four deities (Shu, Tefnut, Geb, and Nut) established the Cosmos, whereas the second set of deities (Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys) mediated between humans and the cosmos.
    As the God of earth, the earth formed his body and was called the "house of Geb," just as the air was called the "house of Shu," and heaven the "house of Ra," (The sky was called the "house of Nut.") Hence, he was also often portrayed laying on his side on the earth, and was sometimes even painted green, with plants springing from his body. Earthquakes were believed to be the laughter of Geb.
    He is one of the gods who watch the weighing of the heart of the deceased in the Judgment Hall of Osiris. The righteous who were provided with the necessary words of power were able to make their escape from the earth but the wicked were held fast by Geb.

    Here we see how the cosmos was partitioned off into aspects then assigned to gods. We also see how the wicked are denied heaven and held by Geb in the same manner as the wicked are denied heaven and assigned to hell in the Christian myths.
    In one Hymn Osiris threatens the Lord of heaven with cataclysmic events if he is not given a place in heaven.

    Hymn 254: O! Lord of the horizon, make ready a place for me, for if you fail to make ready a place for me, I will lay a curse on my father Geb, and the earth will speak no more,

    Thus he acknowledges the earth as his mortal father.
    In another he claims his right to live among the gods, even though he is a mortal son of Geb, the earth god.

    Hymn 307
    An Onite (character) is in me, O! God; your Onite (character) is in me, O! God; an Onite (character) is in me, O! Ra; your Onite (character) is in me, O! Ra. My mother is an Onite, my father is an Onite, and I myself am an Onite, born in On when Ra was ruler of the Two Enneads and the ruler of the plebs was Nefertem, (even I) who have no equal, the heir of my father Geb.

    Explicit acknowledgement of his mortal status is avoided in the Egyptian hymns, even though his physical generation is from the earth god. This process may be seen in the following, where his father acted on his behalf. May we infer that it was an earthly father who did things for him in the proper manner?

    Hymn 306
    Geb has acted on your behalf in accordance with the manner in which things should be done for you.

    The purely mortal elements of these ascriptions is seen in

    Hymn 366
    O Osiris the King, arise, lift yourself up! Your mother Nut has borne you, Geb has wiped your mouth for you.

    Otherwise, I have difficulty finding texts that would allude to, or imply, a human birth to Osiris.

    This all can be understood if the ancient Egyptians did not accept that a god from the celestial realms, who lived on earth as a man, could, or would, be born of human parents. They then transferred all those earthly connections to the heavenly gods. More likely they invented Nut and Geb to complete their structure of the cosmos, and in order to satisfy their mythological needs.
    But the Hebrew people were not thus confused. That this God will be born as a human being is stated in a very famous passage, although it has not yet reached fulfillment:

    Isa 9:6 -- For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

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