Friday, March 1, 2013

Christianity, Egypt and Monotheism Part. 1

Ancient Egypt (Kemet)

Anyone who grew up familiar with the Church naturally sees Ancient Egypt as the land of Exodus, home of the hard hearted Pharoah and of idolatrous heathens.  In the last several decades, scientists, archeologists, historians, and spiritual aspirants have increasingly come to regard Egypt (Kemet) as the true home of philosophy, mathematics, a profound spirituality, science, writing and ultimately civilization itself.  Still, many feel that, as good Christians, there's no need to embrace or even be concerned with Ancient Egypt.  Many even dismiss it.

Egypt is part of our African heritage. Its wisdom, insights and culture are our birthright. What possibly could make us shun our own shining legacy? The Bible? Our religion? The Western European worldview? The deleterious effects of American slavery?

Well first, let's remove the greatest assumption, which is that Egypt can accurately be understood by looking at one Pharoah. That's like saying all of America can be understood by looking at the behavior of George W. Bush. (Consider also that the U.S. is only 200 years old, while the civilization of Ancient Egypt extended over 4000 years.)

Let's keep in mind that according to Genesis, the Egyptians are cousins of the Israelites. One of Noah's descendants was Mizraim, the brother of Cush. Mizraim is the Hebrew word for Upper and Lower Egypt and he was somehow associated with it's earlier history. Abraham traveled to Egypt to survive, when there was a famine in his land. His wife Hagar was Egyptian, and naturally his son Ishmael was half Egyptian.  Later, Abraham's great grandson Joseph was taken in by one of Egypt's Pharoahs. He named Joseph "Zaphnath-paaneah" and made him Governor over the land.  This Pharoah also gave him a wife, Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah, priest of On. (Gen. 46:20). Their two children, Ephraim and Manasseh, established tribes who were numbered among the tribes of Israel. When Joseph died,  he was embalmed and "put in a coffin in Egypt."(Gen. 50:26).

It is worth noting that nowhere in Genesis is there any mention of Egypt in a disparaging manner. However, all that changed centuries later with this turn of events:
"Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph." (Exodus 1:8).

That's all well and good, but let's get to the point. The Egyptians, as far as we have been taught, worshipped many idols and gods. The Bible says:

" I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God." (Exodus 20:2-5).

But what is the Bible? Who wrote it? Seriously...who wrote the Bible?  We're told that that the Bible comes from God. But - doesn't everything come from God? In any other circumstances, would you base your life on a book when you didn't know the author(s) or where it came from? And when, if you asked, you were told "it came from God".  Wouldn't that at least raise an eyebrow? We're told in particular that the Torah or the Five books of Moses were written by Moses. Yet, in Deuteronomy, the fifth book of Moses we find:

Deuterononmy 34:5-6 : "So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day". Who wrote that part? Did Moses write about his own death? And to what era is "unto this day" referring?

Biblical scholars now agree that the Old Testament is a work of many hands and many centuries, that it was composed (from various sources) near 450 BC., in Judah under Persian rule, and acknowledge that it remains of unknown origin. As a historical record it has proven unreliable.  According to scholar Robin Lane Fox, "a question arises as to the truthfulness of the Pentateuch. If it was written so long after the events it describes, how can we be sure that they actually happened, let alone that they are reported accurately?"

For example, in Exodus 12:37 we read: "And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children." Including women and children estimates number the amount of Hebrews leaving Egypt at 2.5 million. However, there is no record of this monumental event in any of the meticulous records kept by the Egyptians, whose population was estimated at 3 million at the time. An emigration like that would have collapsed the economy if not the country. That's like if the population of California, Texas, New York, and all of the South disappeared in 2012 and there was no reocrd of it in any census. Further, there is no archeological evidence showing the existence of any Hebrews in Sinai at all. Out of 2.5 million people, not a pot, a grave or a bone have been found anywhere. And be assured that modern Israeli arhceologists have been actively digging for centuries, looking for proof and some confirmation of this event. 

So then, we are told that the Bible was written by men "inspired by God."
But let's look at Mark 16:15, 16 and 19.
"And he (Jesus) said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
... So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. "

Earlier in Matthew 15 Jesus made it clear that he was not "sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Now he's saying the opposite. How is this contradiction reconciled? Then he's saying that every creature in the world who isn't baptized and doesn't believe in him will be damned. What about the people in North America at the time, or Australia or Mali? How is that possible? What
happened to mercy, justice and forgiveness?
Then it says Jesus sat on the "right hand of God."  If Jesus is God how does he sit on the right hand of God?? Note,  it doesn't say the right hand of the Father, it says God.
Don't bother trying to come up with explanations to these questions because none of these verses were written by the author of Mark. They were added centuries later, by men who were trying to insert their own doctrine and their own understandings (or misunderstandings) into the Bible using distinctive words and language not occurring elsewhere in the Gospel. Look it up. None of Mark 16:9-20 was found in any of the earlier manuscripts before the third century. There were many additions, redactions, revisions etc., over the years  to what we call the Bible until it was finished by the year 150 AD, and formalized in the Second Council of Trullan of 692.
Were these men, deceptiviely adding their own opinions into the Bible, also inspired by God?

Ultimately, what we have is a collection of writings that tell us how the Hebrews over the years viewed the world and the Creator. For example, if they won a battle "God was pleased with them"; if they lost a battle, the Lord was "angry" with them. Of course other nations could easily interpret their fate similarly, only in reverse. Undoubtedly, other nations had their stories of creation, the flood and their family history. (Sumerians had a creation and a flood story, where the God Enki instructs Atra-hasis to build an Ark and fill it with animals- written in 2150 B.C.)

We have to remember that God didn't come from the Hebrews, it was the other way around. God existed long before the Hebrews created their oral histories, and he has been the God of other nations with other stories and legends as well.
 This is shown in Amos 9:7  "Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the LORD. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?"

Back to Exodus 20:4, the idea is "Thou shalt have no Gods before me.Thou shalt not bow down to any graven images." This is for Israel. This is how they were supposed to worship their God. Why? Exodus doesn't say why. Of course we can come up with many insightful, esoteric explanations as to why the Israelites were instructed to worship God this way - maybe there's no need to make images because an image can't convey God's might and eternal essence properly. Maybe this was a reaction to Egyptian traditions that may have focused more on the images than what they conveyed...but it would all be speculation.  Exodus doesn't explain why.  

Verse 20:5 states "for the Lord thy God is a jealous god."
But that doesn't make sense. What kind of Creator would be jealous of his own creation? Also,  isn't that a petty, insecure emotion? Actually it's mistranslated in English; the ancient hebrew word (kanna) has a related meaning in Arabic, “red (with dye),” so an interesting English analogy, expressing facial color changes, would be “livid”. This is why many revised editions of the Bible translate it as a “zealous” God (in punishing iniquity). What can be understood from the scriptures is that because Yahweh alone saved Israel from Egypt, the Israelites should worship Yahweh alone and no others.
It’s a covenant or a deal that is referenced throughout the scriptures. The point is that this instruction was for the Israelites. There is no right or wrong here. If other nations expressed the same Creator differently they would not be violating Exodus 20:4 because – it’s for the Israelites. There’s no reason to look down on other cultures that express the Creator otherwise, especially (as we shall see) when their understanding of the nature of the Creator has been no less profound.
For example, imagine if a king commissioned four artists to express the sun; and one painted large, exaggerated sun rays because he wanted to focus on the effect the sun's radiation has on the trees, grass plants and animals; one painted a realistic, detailed picture of the sun in the sky so accurately it looked like a photograph; one artist wrote the word sun on a canvas because he said a painting could never convey the brilliance of the sun and the last artist didn't write or draw anything at all because he felt it would be futile to try to represent the sun on canvas because you couldn't convey the refracted rays, the heat, the or the sheer power of the sun in a picture. Which artist would be right?? Which artist would be wrong?? 
You can't really say, especially if they all understand they are not actually re-creating the sun.
Throughout time this has been the case with humankind in expressing their various concepts of the Divine. The only dangerous party would be those who felt their view was absolutely right and all others were absolutely wrong, those who would take their painting, image or concept as actually  God (or the Sun) itself. This is where war, bigotry and hatred begin.

Ultimately, the God of the Bible is Israel's God as seen by Israel and expressed by Israel.

How did Egyptian's view God? If you have a reflex which says, as a Christian, why would I care to know that? Ask yourself this question..who told you were Christian? What is a Christian? How did that label come to identify you and limit what you could learn and explore? If you say you are Christian because you follow Jesus, that's not correct, because Jesus wasn't Christian, neither were his disciples. Jesus kept the passover, didn't eat pork and kept the Sabbath on Saturday. There are many around the world who follow Jesus and his teachings. There are Hindu and Buddhist sages, Muslims and Sufis among many others who view Jesus as the Messiah and follow his teachings, but that doesn't make them Christian.

A Christian is one who follows Christianity, plain and simple. And Christianity is the theological organization of the European West. Put crudely white people tell you you're Christian. And they tell you if you embrace any other outlook you will go to hell.

Saint Martial of Limoges (died A.D. 165): "All who do not confess Christ to be true God shall go into eternal fire."

Origen (died A.D. 254): "Let no man deceive himself. Outside this house, that is, outside the Church no one is saved."
Saint Augustine,(died A.D. 430): "No man can find salvation except in the Catholic Church.

But most black people are Protestant, Baptists in particular. Many black people can trace their faith back to the German Monk, Luther who rebelled against the Catholic Church, in 1517.
This shows how deeply brainwashed we are. How can black people be Protestant when their ancestors as a group were never in Europe, or under the rule of the Medeival Catholic Church?! We were in Sudan, Ghana, Niger, Nubia, Gambia etc.  What are we protesting against?
 If you are protestant, you are told what to believe, which is salvation by faith alone or Sola Fide. This is what your ministers are taught to teach you.  Sola Fide is the teaching that justification (interpreted in Protestant theology as "being declared just by God") is received by faith only, without any mixture of, or need for good work. And for most, anyone who doesn't beleive this isn't Christian. It doesn't mean they aren't followers of Jesus because Jesus didn't teach this doctrine. Most of the quotes in the Bible used to support this doctrine come from Paul and most of the quotes used to refute it actually come from Jesus himself.
Most clearly: Matt. 5:16: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."; Matt. 7:21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." And also, Matt. 5:17 "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
(Look it up.)

So now we can continue and look at how the Egyptians viewed the Divine.
And ask yourselves along the way, "which would I rather have offended, my religion or my intelligence?" And consider that both come from God, albeit one comes from him more directly.

To be continued.....