|The Author Presenting
"Out Of Egypt "
to Bishop Shenuda III
To return to the Essenes and the Gnostics: both were secret
sects because their Messianic beliefs were at variance with those of the
Jews1 who continued - and still continue - to await the First Coming of
their Saviour. John the Baptist 'the man sent from God', was the
first Essene to come out into the open. His mission was to bring
the baptism of repentance to the Jews as a symbol of forgiveness, and in
the light of Essene belief he can only have been preparing the way for
the Second Coming. The movement that he started - the baptism of
repentance together with the promise of eternal life - became so popular
that Herod Antipas had him executed lest he should become a rallying point
for Jewish dissidence.
Far from the Jesus of the Gospels being the inspirational and divine founder of the Christian church, it was Peter, head of a Judaeo-Christian church in Jerusalem which taught that only circumcised Jews who kept the Mosaic law could benefit from the New Covenant's promise of an afterlife, who became the rock upon which the church was built. (Many centuries earlier, it was the ancient Egyptians who had enjoined the practice of circumcision upon the Israelites.) At about the same time Paul, himself a Jew, received his call to serve the Lord. His letter to the Galatians makes it clear that he did not go 'up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me [i.e. Peter's Judaeo-Christian church]; but I went into Arabia....' And he later specifies precisely where he went - Mount Sinai, where he spent a period of three years' initiation into the mystery of the Lord. His knowledge can only have come from the Gnostics.
On his return, Paul joined with Barnabas, the head of a flourishing Gentile church at Antioch, and eventually became its head. Thus arose the clash between Paul and the Jerusalem apostles which was resolved by compromise: Peter was recognized as the apostle of the Jews, and Paul as the apostle of the Gentiles. Moreover, the Jerusalem church accepted Paul as an apostle because of his claim to have seen Jesus in a vision. Paul makes it clear that his 'meeting' was not with the physical being of the risen Christ, but the result of a high state of meditation: 'I conferred not with flesh and blood' (1 Corinthians, 15:8).
So it was that the Early Church was faced with the task of both rewriting and suppressing history in order to establish its doctrine and the life, suffering and death of the mythical Jesus in the 1st century AD. The Gnostic library and the teaching of Paul himself omit many tenets of what was to become orthodox Christian belief:
Specifically in the teaching of Paul we find no reference
The main points discussed in Out of Egypt:
* According to the New Testament, there were two different apostolic
churches in the early history of Christianity:
- The Jerusalem Jewish-Christian Church headed by Peter, which invited only circumcised Jews to join.
- The Gentile Church headed by Paul which accepted Jews as well as Gentiles to join.
* St Paul had a different Gospel from that of St Peter and the rest of the Jerusalem Church. He was the first to regard Christ as the redeemer and the son of God and to give a different meaning to baptism in confession of the resurrected Christ, rather than John’s baptism for remission of sin.
- In his letter to the Galatians Paul states that, having encountered the light of Christ on the road to Damascus, he retired to Arabia. In those times the political country of Arabia included, not only East Jordan, but also Sinai.
- Paul speaks of Mount Sinai as being a holy place, which is in heaven. He also states that he remained in Arabia for three years before returning to Jerusalem with his new Gospel.
- Three years is the right time for initiation into the community of the Gnostic Christians whose hermits are known to have inhabited the area beneath Mount Sinai, which is now occupied by the Monastery of St. Catherine.
- Although the Church of Rome was a gentile church, nevertheless it recognized Peter, rather than Paul, as its leader, in order to gain political authority.
- The Roman bishops claimed that Peter received an authority from the physically risen Christ to head the Church. Peter in turn was said to have gone to Rome and handed his authority to its bishops.
- The Church of Rome needed authority to place itself as the head of all other churches. Realizing that Paul confessed never seeing the risen Christ in a physical form, and that the Jerusalem Church could not constitute a challenge since it had disappeared following the destruction of the Temple in AD. 70, they chose Peter.
* The two early churches of Peter and Paul emerged from two ancient
sects; the Essenes of Qumran and the Gnostics of Egypt.
- Two major archaeological discoveries have been made following the end of World War II, which have completely changed our understanding of the early history of Christianity:
- In 1945 the Coptic library of Nag Hammadi was found in Upper Egypt, which included Christian gospels not known before. The most important of these is the Gospel of Thomas, including sayings of Jesus, which could be dated earlier than the four Gospels of the New Testament.
- This Library belonged to a Gnostic Christian sect, which is the same as the early Egyptian Gentile Church.
- Although most of the 53 texts of Nag Hammdi are Christian writings, none of them mentions Jesus as belonging to the city of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, entering Jerusalem, or crucified on the orders of Pontius Pilate.
- In 1947 a Hebrew library was found in Kherbet Qumran, east of the top end of the Dead Sea. It included copies of the Old Testament books as well as sectarian writings. These texts were written between the 2nd century BC. and the mid-1st century AD.
- This library belonged to the Jewish-Christian sect of the Essenes.
- Although the Essenes spoke of their Teacher of Righteousness who had been killed and whose return they were expecting, no mention of Jesus is found in their writings, as being a contemporary character living in the same land of Palestine. The Essenes do not talk of their Teacher as belonging to Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, entering Jerusalem, or being crucified on the orders of Pontius Pilate.
- In his New Testament letters, St Paul agrees with the Essenes and Gnostics in not talking of Jesus as belonging to Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, entering Jerusalem, or crucified on the orders of Pontius Pilate.
* Christ appeared, not once, but twice. Once in a historical form
and the other in a spiritual form.
- The early Fathers who wrote the history of the Church stated that Jesus had appeared twice:
- First in the person of Joshua the son of Nun, who succeeded Moses as the leader of the Israelites, in the 14th century BC. This was regarded by them as Christ’s pre-existence.
- Second when the Glory of Christ appeared to his disciples, during the first half of the 1st century AD. This they regarded as Christ’s historical appearance.
- It is generally accepted that Jesus, the same as Joshus, was the Israelite leader who succeeded Moses.
* However, while the Church Fathers took the first appearance to be spiritual and the second historical, Ahmed Osman argues that the first should be taken as the historical appearance and the second as the spiritual.
* The name Jesus appeared for the first time in the Greek translation of the Old Testament made in Alexndria during the 3rd century BC. ‘Jesus’ then indicated the son of Nun, who succeeded Moses as the leader of the Israelites.
- Jesus is also the name given to Joshua the son of Nun in the works of Philo of Alexandria and Flavius Josephus, both Jewish authors of the 1st century AD.
* When the Christian Gospels, which were also written in Greek, spoke of Jesus, it was clear to the reader then that this was the same person as the Israelite leader who succeeded Moses.
- The confusion only appeared from the 16th century onwards, when the Bible was translated into English. Only then the name ‘Joshua’ was given to the Old Testament character, while ‘Jesus’ was used for his New Testament appearance.
have never given up the hope of one day finding the burial place of Pharaoh
Akhenaten, who disappeared in mysterious circumstances, after 17 years
on the throne, and was succeeded by his son Tutankhanun. Some archaeologists
are even looking for the king’s tomb far away from the Nile Valley, in
the desert of Sinai and western Arabia. Although the king had prepared
a tomb for himself in his city of Amarna, his body was not found in it
neither did it show any evidence of the king ever being buried there.
The Royal tomb of Akhenaten was desecrated originally in the wave of anti Amarna feeling that followed the king’s disappearance from the scene and the subsequent brief reigns of Tutankhamun and Aye. Later, it was further plundered by local inhabitants before it was first discovered officially by the Italian archaeologist Alessandro Barsanti in December 1891. John Pendlebury, the British archaeologist who excavated the royal tomb in 1931, confirmed the absence of evidence of Akhenaten ever been buried in his tomb:
“ … there were found parts of Akhenaten’s magnificent alabaster canopic chest, with protecting vultures at the corners, together with pieces of the lids capped with the king’s head. The head gives evidence of never having been used, for it is quite unstained by the black resinous substance seen in those of Amenhotep II and Tutankhamun”.
Akhenaten is the most mysterious and most interesting of all ancient Egyptian pharaohs, because of the revolution in religion and art he created, which resulted in the introduction of the first monotheistic form of worship known in history. Sigmund Freud, in his last book Moses and Monotheism, published in 1939, argued that biblical Moses was an official in the court of Akhenaten, who was an adherent of the Aten religion. After the death of the king, Freud’s theory goes, he selected the Israelite tribe living east of the Nile Delta to be his chosen people, took them out of Egypt at the time of the Exodus and passed on to them the tenets of Akhenaten’s religion. The son of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye, daughter of his minister Yuya, he married his half sister Nefertiti to gain the right to the throne when his father made him his co-regent as Amenhotep IV.
The religion of ancient Egypt was static and traditional, urging that the gods had given a good order and that it was necessary for man to hold firmly to the order. Since the Egyptian state had always been theocratic, ruled by the gods, according to traditional beliefs, the 18th dynasty kings who controlled the country for about 200 years before Akhenaten (1378-1361), were interlocked with the priesthood. In return for wealth and power, the pharaoh had relinquished his religious authority to the priests. The richest and most powerful of the gods, such as Amun of Thebes or Re of Heliopolis, it was held, dictated the purpose of the state. The king had to apply to the gods for oracles directing his major activities.
Within his first few years as pharaoh, Amenhotep IV had to break away sharply with old traditions. In his fifth year he changed his name into Akhenaten then moved out of Thebes and built his new capital at Tell el-Amarna 200 miles to the north. Here in their new home, Akhenaten, his Queen Nefertiti, and their six daughters lived with their nobles and officials worshiping a new God called Aten. Aten was never represented in human or animal form, his symbol being rays of light extending out of a circle ending in hands that gives life to man and all other creatures. Aten had no image in the hidden sanctuary of a temple but was worshiped out in the open. The king conceived of a single controlling intelligence, behind and above all beings including the gods. Following the death of his father after 11 years of co-regency, Akhenaten set about systematically to abolish the worship of all cults but that of Aten. He and his wife Nefertiti also fostered a naturalistic school of art and literature. The Amarna art was a striking departure from the conventional, symbolic ancient Egyptian form.
Nevertheless, his attempt to force his new religion on his peopled met with complete failure, as the army, on whose support the king relied in his confrontation with the priesthood, became restless and there was a danger of mutiny. It was then that Akhenaten disappeared mysteriously from the scene, assumed dead, at the end of his reign in his Year 17, and young Tutankhamun followed him on the throne. Yet there are some indications that Akhenaten was forced to apdicate the throne, and was still alive during Tutankhamen’s reign, where he lived in exile in Sinai.
evidence indicate that Tutankhamun came to the throne as a result of a
military coup. A scene on the wall on the tomb of Maya, the young king’s
nanny, discovered recently in Saqqara by the French mission, included the
five army generals who are believed to have led the coup.
In my book Moses Pharaoh of Egypt, published in 1990, I suggested that Akhenaten did not die at the end of his 17 year reign, but was forced to abdicate the throne by an army coup. Pharaoh Akhenaten, one of the 18th dynasty kings who ruled Egypt for 17 years in the mid-14th century BC, abolished the old Egyptian gods in favour of a new monotheistic God, Aten, whose worship the king wanted to force upon his people. Akhenaten relied completely on the army’s support in his confrontation with the old priesthood. Although he never took part in any war, the king is shown, in the vast majority of representations, wearing the Blue Crown or the short Nubian wig, both belonging to his military head-dress, rather than the traditional ceremonial crowns of the Two Lands. Scenes of soldiers and military activity abound in both the private and royal art of Amarna. If we may take the reliefs from the tombs of the nobles at face value, then his capital city was virtually an armed camp. Everywhere we see parades and processions of soldiers, infantry and chariotry with their massed standards. There are soldiers under arms standing guard in front of the palaces, the temples and in the watchtowers that bordered the city, scenes of troops, unarmed or equipped with staves, carrying out combat exercises in the presence of the king.
The army, loyal to the throne, carried out the will of the king without questioning. The position of Aye, Akhenaten’s maternal uncle, as the commander general of the army, assured its loyalty to the ruling dynasty. Aye held posts among the highest in the infantry and the chariotry, together with Nakht Min, another general related to him. It was the loyalty of the army, controlled by Aye, that kept Akhenaten in power in the uneasy years that followed his coming to the throne as sole ruler in his Year 12 upon the death of his father. By that time Akhenaten had developed his monotheistic ideas to a great extent. If Aten was the only God, Akhenaten, as his sole son and prophet, could not allow other gods to be worshipped at the same time in his dominion. As a response to his rejection by the Amun priests as a legitimate ruler, he had already snubbed Amun and abolished his name from the walls and inscriptions of temples and tombs. Now he took his ideas to their logical conclusion by abolishing worship of any gods throughout Egypt except Aten. He closed all the temples, except those of Aten, confiscated their lands, dispersed the priests and gave orders that the names of all deities should be expunged from monuments and temple inscriptions throughout the country. Army units were despatched to excise the names of the ancient gods wherever they were found written or carved.
At least two events early in Akhenaten’s coregency with his father Amenhotep III indicated strong opposition to his rule. The graffito of Amenhotep III’s Year 30 from the pyramid temple of Meidum, which would be Year 3 of Akhenaten, pointed to a rejection by some powerful factions of the king’s decision to cause ‘the male to sit upon the seat of his father’. Again, the border stela inscription of Amarna shows that, before deciding to leave Thebes and build his new city, Akhenaten had encountered some strong opposition and had been the subject of verbal criticism. Certainly, he would not have left the dynasty’s capital without having been forced to do so. The final confrontation between the throne and the priesthood was postponed simply because, after he departed from Thebes, he had nothing at all to do with the running of the country, which was left to his father, Amenhotep III. Another important factor was the complete reliance of Akhenaten on the armed forces for support. If we may take the reliefs from the tombs of the nobles at face value, then the city was virtually an armed camp. Everywhere we see processions and parades of soldiers, infantry and chariotry with their massed standards. Palaces, temples and the city borders seem to have been constantly guarded.
The persecution of Amun and the other gods, which must have been exceedingly hateful to the majority of the Egyptians, was also hateful to the individual members of the army. This persecution, which entailed the closing of the temples, the despatch of artisans who entered everywhere to hack out his name from inscriptions, the banishment of the clergy, the excommunication of his very name, could not have been carried out without the army’s active support. As the army shares the same religious beliefs as the people, it is naturally that the officers would not feel very happy with the job they were doing. Thus a conflict appeared between the army’s loyalty to the king and its loyalty to the religious beliefs of the nation. Ultimately the harshness of the persecution must have had a certain reaction upon the soldiers, who themselves, had been raised in the old beliefs.
Archaeological evidence to support this claim came in November 1997, when Dr Alain Zivie French archaeologist announced in Cairo the discovery of a new tomb in Saqqara. In this ancient necropolis of the Royal City of Memphis, ten miles south of Cairo, Zivie uncovered the tomb of Maya wet-nurse of Tutankhamun. The tomb which extends 20 meters inside the mountain was also used, from the beginning of the Macedonian Ptolemic period at the start of the 3rd century BC, for the burial of the sacred mummified cats of Bastet. When first found, the tomb was almost completely full of mummified cats, placed there more than a thousand years after the original burial. The joint team from the French Archaeological Mission and the Supreme Council for Egyptian Antiquities have excavated two of the three known chambers. On the wall of the first chamber is a scene depicting Maya, protecting the King sitting on her knee. The inscriptions describe her as ‘the Royal nanny who breast-fed the pharaoh’s body’.
Alongside and to the left of Maya’s seat are six officials representing Tutankhamun’s Cabinet, two above and four below, each has a different facial characteristics. Although none of the officials is named Dr. Zivie was able to suggest their identities from their appearance and the sign of office they carry. He recognize the two above behind Maya’s seat as Aye and Horemheb. The four officials below Zivie identified as Pa-Ramses, Seti, Nakht Min, and Maya. Except for the last one, who is also called Maya the treasurer, the remaining five were all military generals of the Egyptian army, and four of them followed the king on the throne. This is the first time in Egyptian history for the Cabinet to be composed, almost totally, of army generals, which supports my earlier view that Tutankhamun came to the throne as a result of a military coup. These generals could only have gained their positions in the cabinet, and later on the throne, as a result of a military coup.
The new evidence indicate that there must have been a kind of military moved against Akhenaten, led by three army generals: Horemheb, Ramses, and Seti. Aye, the commander of the army, realized he could not crush the rebellion even with the help of General Nakht Min. When his attempt to persuade Akhenaten to allow the return of the old gods failed, he tried to save the royal dynasty by reaching a compromise with the leaders of the rebellion to allow the king to abdicate and be repaced by his son Tutankhamun. Tutankhamun left his father’s capital of Amarna for Memphis in his fourth year, when a compromise was reached by means of which all ancient temples were reopened and worship restored. Nevertheless, Aton remained holding its supreme position, at least as far as the new king was concerned.
Aye, brother of Queen Tiye Akhenaten’s mother, is regarded as the military protector of the Amarna kings, and was responsible for the Chariots also during the time of Akhenaten, while general Nakht Min is thought to have been his relative. Akhenaten used the army to destroy old powerful priesthood and force his new monotheistic religion on his people. But the army, which shared the same old beliefs as the rest of the people, could not support the king to the end. It is clear that, Akhenaten faced on his 17th year an army rebellion led by generals Horemheb, Pa-Ramses, and Seti. Aye, supported by General Nakht Min, not being in a position to crush the rebellion, made a deal with them to allow for the abdication of Akhenaten and the appointing of his son, Tutankhamun, as his successor. This would also explain how Aye, when he succeeded Tutankhamun on the throne, disappeared mysteriously together with Nakht Min, after four years , while the three other generals rose to power. When Horemheb followed Aye as king, he appointed both Pa-Ramses and his son Seti as viziers and commanding generals of the army. They in tern succeeded him on the throne as Ramese I, who established the 19th dynasty, and Seti I.