Syncretism between Egypt and Syria-Palestine

Syncretism between Egypt and Syria-Palestine

We see many example of syncretism between Egypt and Syria-Palestine area, across a broad rage of categories including military, religion, and art. Also often times things take on syncretism across many those categories, for example there is the scimitar weapon which has legitimizing religious significance in many way but also has significance in just being a useful weapon, so it seems like both took and gave in the development of this weapon, Egypt contributed to the artistic and religious while Syria-Palestine contributed to the development of it as a weapon

“…well known from Mesopotamia, particularly in iconography, in the Old Babylonian period. It is often seen in the hands of a god or king and is generally interpreted as the symbol of might and victory (much the same as the mace). This weapon is likewise found in Syria-Palestine, where it seems to retain its symbolic character. It is entirely appropriate that a scimitar should be found in a royal tomb of Byblos and ornamented with the king’s name and an Egyptian uraeus serpent. In is likely that this symbolic weapon was introduced into Egypt during the Hyksos period and became an important element in the iconography of gods and kings in the New Kingdom. Its connection with the Hyksos may be seen in one of the prenomina of Apophis, namely, nb-hpi-rc.”(The Hyksos pg. 58)

It is evident here that this sickle like sword weapon namely the Egyptian hps was used by both the Egyptians and the Byblos and therefore someone copied someone on this sickle sword. It seems that it was brought to Egypt during the Hyksos period, consequently the eariliest example of the dagger is an early Egihteenth Dynasty dagger of Ahmose. Therefore this is a case of Egyptians borrowing a Mesopotamia weapon, but also the Byblos seems to have borrowed back the ornamentation of the Egyptian uraeus serpent. I am currently uncertain what the ‘prenomina of Apophis is but I will take their word for is that it shows that there is a connection of this weapon to the Hyksos period.

Other incorporation of Egyptian art and religious symbols in Syria-Palestine comes in the appearance of Scarabs in the Syria-Palestine area, however we have a problem with the origins of the scarabs; there seems to be an incredible amount of syncretism between the scarabs. Since scarabs are often seen with Egyptian art or scarabs with Palestine art that appears to take on Egyptian themes, it seems that scarabs are mostly Egyptian, but there is the problem of them not being used before the Twelfth Dynasty for any purpose religious purpose. So it could be that the Egyptians to a certain extent may have incorporated the Old Babylonian period. It is really hard to tell who borrowed from whom, in regards to the origins of the scarabs. Although it does seem to take on more Egyptian value as is evident by the fact that the although the scarabs have a long history in Syrian and Mesopotamian iconography the person on the scarab is often depicted as a flacon-headed god, with a palm branch or flower along with a uraeus serpent.(The Hyksos pg.65) That would be an indication that the scarab was of Egyptian origins if it were not for other scarabs that is fairly well considered to be associated with Middle Minoan culture of the Agean, form whom the Egyptians could have borrowed.(The Hyksos pg. 63). So it would seem entirely possible that the Egyptians borrowed the scarabs from the Minoan culture, and in so doing so incorporated their own design on them and a place for it in their mythology.

“One of the most dominant characteristics of the MB II B-C period is the great quantities of scarabs that begin to appear in strata in Palestine and, to a lesser extent, in coastal Syria. They are a valuable index of contact between Asia and Egypt in the Second Intermediate Period. A discussion of these objects is, however, greatly handicapped by the large degree of uncertainty among scholars about their development. It is clear that the scarab or sacred beetle, developed from the combination of a stamp seal with a scarab amulet. There is evidence of development in the early Middle Kingdom, although at the time the scarab was still quite rare. Their widespread use as charms cannot be dated much earlier than the end of the Twelfth Dynasty. Large cemeteries at Dendereh, Hu and Beni Hassan with hundreds of graves of the Eleventh and early Twelfth Dynasties do not contain a single scarab…This conclusion with regard to the dating of the scarabs is essential for a consideration of the royal scarabs of the Twelfth Dynasty. Scarabs with the names of Twelfth Dynasty pharaohs on them were not always contemporary with these kings; they were made mostly in the Second Intermediate Period, solely for amuletic purposes.”(The Hyksos pg.61-62)

Another possible aspect of syncretism is the lotus flower which is represented in decorative art of the Hindus and Egyptians, and is also used in Greek legends, as a plant whose fruit was supposed to cause a dreamy and contented forgetfulness in those who ate it, consequently making them lose all desire to return home (Thorndike Barnhart advanced dictionary)

Argument against syncretism in the core Christian beliefs.

To fully understand syncretism it is important to examine the idea of universalism and how it may contribute to the many things though of as syncretism. Consequently, it becomes necessary to look at Christianity and the extensive power that is contained within Monotheistic doctrines to motive the followers thereof. It is clearly evident that syncretism is extremely prevalent in polytheistic religions, but it seems to be contrary to the very nature of Christian beliefs. Although it is not substantial less prevalent among Christianity in ritualistic aspects, any sizeable syncretism among Chiristianity is a prevision of true Christianity. In fact the indifferences because of church syncretism among the Roman Catholic Church is the very reason the Protestant Church rose up. To demonstrate that true Christianity is not syncretistic I have shown that many of the core values of Christianity are actually more appropriately through of as universal concepts in that transcends cultures.

“The legendary accounts of the young Jesus have parallels in stories of heroes and holy men all over the world: the supernatural conception (though the virgin birth itself is not in fact a common theme outside Christianity); the birth in unusual circumstances, accompanied by signs and portents, like the Star of Bethlehem and the worshipping ox and ass; the bringing of gifts by mysterious personages; the upbringing in obscurity; and the youthful wonder-working which displays the hero’s supernormal powers. These legends of Jesus were not only popular in Christendom but through translations into Arabic, entered the Muslim world as well.”(Legends of the world pg. 211)

Evident here is that the Egyptian myth of Isis reconstructing Osiris and becoming pregnant may actually be like a foreshadowing of the birth of Christ. The idea that the Osiris myth is a precursor of the birth story of Christ is seemingly reasonable on the surface, but once one looks deeper into it one sees how much more unique and different the story of Christ is form the supernatural birth of Hrous. For the birth of Hrous is actually has surprising little to legitimize it missing the legitimizing aspects mentioned above, to prove that it was from God. These things such as the a star rising over the birth place with the worshipping ox and ass; the bringing of gifts by mysterious personages; the virgin birth; as detailed above bring credit to the story of Christ and legitimize his calms of divinity, other myths similar have no such credence, and are based much more in the mythological realm rather than being based around a real historic figure. Even though the Isis and child myth is based in the entirely in mythology even the people of the story; it is used to within the corporal realm, hence many such myths do become used for credence of leaders, but the more historically based and testimony of the nature world to the divinity of the child is missing in the most stories of the supernatural births.

In light of these aspects bringing credit to the story and of lack of legitimizing aspects in the Isis Hrous myth, which also has a similar version in Crete legends in which “Europa, the daughter of Tyre was abducted by the god Zeus in the form of a bull. He carried her across the sea to Crete, where she bore a son, Ninos, who grew up to be King of Crete, lord of a formidable sea-power, a notable law giver and a just judge. His wife Pasiphae was moved to passion for a bull. The Athenian inventor Daedalus formed a model cow in which she could lie and enjoy her unnatural love. The child of this union was the Minotaur, half-man, half-bull. He as hidden away in another of Daedalus’ inventions, the labyrinth or maze.” (Legends of the world pg. 154) Here we have another story similar to the myth of supernatural birth, similar to the Isis and Osiris myth and similar to the story of the birth of Jesus, although it is once again lacking the legitimizing factors like the story of the birth of Jesus, hence this story was probably also synchronized, from possibly the Isis and child myth.

“Eurasia in 500 B.C. Historians have often been impressed by roughly coincidental appearance of such Hebrew prophets as the Second Isaiah and Ezekiel, the Buddha in India, Confucious in China, and the first Greek philosophers. Artistically and politically, as well much of the civilized belt of Eurasia was making great strides in the middle centuries of the first millennium B.C. To seek an explanation of this amazing phenomenon we can make use of principles of cross-fertilization. The development of India and of Greece owed something to their contacts with the hub of the ancient world, that is the Fertile Crescent; but the course of progress in each area was far too diverse and the visible links were far too tenuous to support any assumptions that one district simply borrowed from another. China, moreover, lay a far distant horizon with no evident connection to the other regions.” (a history of the ancient world Pg.179)

Hence polytheistic religions seem to be much more conducive to syncretism. Because of the fact that they have many different gods more gods really do not make a difference, but in Christianity and Judaism for example one must betray the one true God to worship any other gods. Since the ten commands are very explicit about having no other gods before the one true God, and also making no graven images before God Judaism and Christianity are very limited in what they can synchronize with polytheism and still remain true to there God. Since Christianity and the like are resting on the authority of God for their religion they hold much more legitimacy than the polytheistic religions that more or less evolve to suit the elite’s desires. According to Rodney Stark

“Confucianism practiced in various monasteries and among court philosophers and other such intellectuals were Godless, but most people associated an abundant pantheon of divine being with the Toist, Buddhist, and Confucian ideals. Indeed, even when backed by imperial power, attempts by Chinese philosophers to exclude all gods from Taoism failed to with stand the existential concerns of the general public. According to Geoffrey Parrinder (1983:337): “Whatever the official religion taught, people still sought for personal relationships with gods and spirits of a personal and individual kind. And belief in such deities…provided the religious needs which the philosophers and the official religions had bypassed.” (One True God pg. 11)

I likewise think of Egyptian, Nubian, and most other polytheistic religions like in this sort of manner, obviously the Egyptians, and Nubians have come up with ways to associate themselves with the gods and as gods to try and solve these problems, but similarly in China the emperor backed the certain gods, but these polytheist religions fail to provide that personal relationship with the gods, so the people start to incorporate other gods and change gods to meet those needs. Now when Christianity comes into post-Meroitic Nubia for example all these needs are taken care of by One God who is all powerful, and thus the need for syncretism of gods is gone, and any syncretism would be a direct betrayal to the beliefs of Christianity, for as the Bible teaches one can not serve to masters. This however does not prevent syncretism of church rituals with the former polytheist rituals, but most of this is also a perversion of the Christian religion. As is evident from the recent Megiddo prison find of probably the earliest Christian church in the world original Christianity was unique and was celebrated and had not synchronized with any polytheistic rituals yet.

In summary the most vital or basic parts that make up religions seem to universal, in many senses and especially in the case of Christianity; although there is no denying the syncretism is there in so many aspects. The question really comes down to whether syncretism originates form incorporating similar beliefs containing similar concepts with already existing beliefs, or is it actually borrowing an entire concept of religion. It would seem that the former is more likely, that beliefs that are familiar are incorporated to meet a need. In view of the fact that people maintain many of their own cultural characteristic; it appears unlikely that people would have been incorporated them into their own religions; unless there was some universal connection between the beliefs or at least some sort of common ground.

Bibliography
A History of The Ancient World, second edition, Chester g. Starr
New York Oxford University Press 1974 copyright 1965, 1974 by Oxford University Pres, Inc

Legend of the World, A cyclopedia of enduring myths, legends, and sagas of mankind, edited by Richard Cavendish with illustrations by Eric Fraser, Schocken Books New York, copyright 1982 by Orbis Publishing Limited

One True God, Historical Consequences of Monotheism, Rodney Stark, Princeton University Press, Prince and Oxford, copyright 2001 by Princeton University Press

The Hyksos, A New Investigation, by John Van Seters
New Haven and London, Yale University Press copyright 1966 by Yale University. Second Printing, November 1967

Thorndike Barnhart advanced dictionary second edition by E.L. Thorndike/Clarence L. Barnhart Scott, Foresman and Company copyright 1974

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