One of the most important factors in shaping modern Christianity was the fusion of two theologies, Israelite and Egyptian. It is essential to understand what the earlier peoples believed in order to appreciate the contribution of their beliefs to the birth of “Orthodox” Christianity. The fulcrum of Moses’s teaching, like Akhenaten, was the existence of a single God. The Egyptians worshiped a plethora of gods, but Messianic beliefs, the promise of eternal life, and the importance of the salvation of the rite of baptism were old Egyptian concepts.

The basis of the Egyptian beliefs on salvation was the divine nature that the Egyptians attributed to their kings. From the Fourth Dynasty (the twenty-first century BC), the king was considered the Son of Man of Ra, the cosmic god. King’s actions were considered to be the completion of his father’s commands. This special relationship between God Ra and the King manifested itself in the three main events in the life of the sovereign, sacred birth, anointing at the time of coronation and resurrection after death.

At the time of his coronation, the sovereign became the bearer of the divine royal office. The coronation ceremony, including purification with water, anointing and wearing royal garments, seizing the scepter of his charge, bringing the crowns of the Two Lands (black and red) placed on the head and the proclamation of the its real names and titles. The king came to heaven, not with oil, but through the fat of the sacred crocodile. Here we find the original source of the word Messiah. MeSeH, the crocodile word in ancient Egypt, and the image of two crocodiles was used for the title of sovereign, conferred upon the king at the time of his coronation.



The decisive event in the life of the sovereign was his death and resurrection. Entering into the divine world to his coronation, a king was to belong to the human world at the moment of his death. It was said that he “became Osiris,” the Egyptian god of the underworld. From the time of King Osiris’s death, he shared the eternal spiritual existence with the gods.

Initially, the promise of eternal life was limited to kings and nobles, because only they could afford the expensive ritual of burial. However, after the death of Tutankhamon in the last years of the eighteenth dynasty, there was a long process of change in Osirian theology, which led to the birth of the cult of Serapis, whose followers could participate in the promise of eternal life, without the need for mummification if they confessed faith in divinity and through a ritual of initiation. Consequently, the cult of Serapide, open to the poor, as well as the rich, became the most popular religion in Egypt and replaced other cultures as the official religion of the state.

The cult of Serapide was initially based on the two of the Egyptians, Osiris and Bees, the sacred Menfi bull from which its name derived. Bees, originally associated with the ancient god Ptah of Menfi, was later linked with Osiris. Since that time the death of the Apis bull became an important event. He was given an official funeral in the presence of a congregation of faithful who brought gifts from all over the country. The Api bull, he enjoyed eternal life, in the sense that he was born again just died. The priests sought the characteristics of replacing Api, and identified him with a black spot on the forehead, neck and back. Once found, joy replaced the mourning and the calf of the divine was placed with his mother in the sacred stables at Menfi, surrounded by a loud harem.


Serapide worship is dated from the Tolomaic dynasty to the pre-Christian era in Egypt. The city of Alexandria was founded, three centuries before the beginning of the Christian era, by Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia (an ancient country in the southeastern European) after the conquest of Egypt. It was later ruled by the Ptolemies until 30 BC, when Cleopatra (who had previously killed his brother, Ptolemy XIII) ended his life, becoming bitten by an aspiration after his rebellion against Rome, along with the his lover, Marco Antonio, with a defeat in the naval battle of Azio. Egypt then passed under Roman rule.

In the following centuries, Alexandria, the capital of the Ptolemies, had become a cosmopolitan city and the cultural center of the civilized world, a classification that continued to hold even after the political supremacy of Rome was established. A large number of immigrants arrived in Egypt, Greek-Macedonian military veterans, awarded for their service with rich agricultural lands, Asians, Jews, Syrians and Libyans. These communities, married to the Egyptians and others, led to the creation of a society in which traditions and religious beliefs were merged. At the beginning of this integration process, Ptolemy I {c. 304-284 BC), introduced as the official religion the Egyptian cult of Serapide (sometimes written by Sarapide) with the help of Manon, Egyptian priest of Heliopolis.


Ptolemy I, was a tireless worker in spreading Egyptian culture throughout the Greco-Roman world. As a result, the worship of god Serapide quickly spread from Alexandria to Greece and Italy and, over time, found his expression as a “sacred” family made up of Osiris, his wife Isis and his son from the head of Hawk Hawk. In the first half of the Christian era, this worship was by far the most famous Egyptian religion in Rome, and had a temple of Serapide already in 105 AD. The charm of Serapide, which had inherited many attributes of Osiris, including the underworld of the underworld, and the mystical rites of Isis, to which women and men were admitted after an initiation ceremony, was based primarily on the explicit promise of immortality , offered to the members. Isis, was seen as a figure, similar to the Madonna, who had borne the tribulations of all women.



The cults of Isis and Serapis not only persisted at the birth of Christianity, but in the second century AD, they actually increased in popularity. New sanctuaries were built, accompanied by a massive increase in votive inscriptions over those of the last two centuries. Christianity and pagan cults existed comfortably side by side in this first phase of the Christian era and were frequently seen as interchangeable. Christians made no distinction between Christ and Seraphus and often worshiped both. In 134 AD, after a visit to Alexandria, Emperor Hadrian wrote a letter to his elder brother-in-law, Serviano, in which he commented: “So we praise Egypt, my dear Servian! I know the earth from above the low, a fickle, difficult land, undecided and willing to change at every opportunity, in which Serapis worshipers are Christians, and those who are called the Bishops of Christ are devoted to Serapis … Every time the Patriarch himself comes in Egypt to please everyone is forced to worship Serapide, now Christ. ”

The survival of the ancient Egyptian cult of Serapis alongside Christianity is also described particularly in the imaginative novel The Golden Donkey (Metamorphosis) by Lucius Apuleius, a Platonic, who was formed in Carthage, Athens and Rome. His novel tells the adventures and misadventures of Apuleus after he had become a donkey by magic, to which the human form was restored at the end of the book through the merciful intervention of Isis and Serapis. The goddess appeared to Apuleius, explaining that she is known by various names, Minerva, Venus, Diana, Proserpina, Cerere, Juno, Bellona, Ecate, and the Egyptians who are excellent in all kinds of ancient doctrines their ceremonies worship me, calling me Queen Isis. “


After dawn, Apuleius took part in a religious ceremony in which the congregation included “trumpet blowers who were devoted to Serapis” and various priests, one accompanied by “a boat-shaped lucerne with a round hole, having on the one hand, figures similar to those of the Egyptians. “Once the great priest restored Apuleus in human form, he said,” Here, Lucio, you have been delivered by so great miseries to the providence of the goddess Isis … doing yourself one of this holy order … taking on you the volunteer yoke of ministry. ”

Apuleius continues to describe how he went to Rome, where his greatest desire was “to pray daily to my prayers to the sovereign Isis God … continually adored by the people of Rome” and increased his religious participation, becoming a minister of Osiris , “the sovereign father of all goddesses,” as Isis: “I attended the sacrifices to Seraphim, which were made in the night, which gave me great comfort.” Finally, “the great god Osiris appeared to me in the night, not disguised in any other form, but in its essence, commanding me to become a lawyer in court, and not to fear the slander and the envy of the bad people who bring me … grudge because of my doctrine. ”

Apuleus also confirms that the promise of the resurrection was contained in the rites of Isis. They assured the mystae (followers), who would see and worship the goddess in their lives after death. This is an obvious parallel to the expectations of Christians on the vision of God in the other world: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5: 8).


With the spread of “orthodox” Christianity, the temple of Serapis, built by Ptolemy I in Alexandria, containing a huge statue of God in the same style as it was later used for the representations of Christ in coptic churches, became the center of cult of Serapis. The paintings of Isis with his son Horus were identified by Christians with portraits of Mary with his son Jesus. The baptismal rite, part of the ceremony of initiating the Serapide worship, was adopted by the Church as part of the ceremony of Christian initiation , and still survives today.

In an article on the Journal of Egyptian Archeology of 1950, Sir Alan Gardiner, the British Egyptiologist, argued that Egyptian baptism should be seen as analogous to Christian baptism. He cited 36 scenes, one of which is in the Vatican Museums, which showed several Pharaohs, baptized ritually with water. Similar representations are found in the funeral worship in the tombs of the nobles or Osirianized kings (in the sense that they had become one with Osiris). On the similarity between the two forms of baptism, Sir Alan said: “In either case a symbolic cleansing by means of water served as an initiation for the legitimate religious life.”

In the temple of Hatshepsut and Amenofi III at Deir el-Bahri in Luxor, the scenes of their sacred birth show infants as they are baptized. The accompanying text reads: “Be pure together with your ka (soul) … you live in [eternally].” In all these scenes of water that is poured from the jug on the head of the baptized person is depicted as a flow of the Ankh, an Egyptian symbol of life.

In baptism, there was the custom of using, whenever possible, the water of the summer floods of the Nile, considered a sacred element of life, which also ensured prosperity, fertility and family wellbeing. With the increase in engineering sophistication, it became a habit to create a symbolic stream of the Nile, organizing a pipe system through which this “living” water, that is, the flowing water, filled the tub to be used in the ceremony.

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Even in the sixth century BC, Christians still considered Serapis’s followers, considered the full summer waters of the Nile as having particular properties. Those who lived close enough to gather on the banks of the river to bless and collect water when the Nile began its annual outflow. Those who lived far away blessed a basin of water as a true river replacement. The importance of using “living water” was maintained by early Christians. The most suitable water was considered to be found at the springs. With the spread of Christianity, however, it became less common to make baptisms outside of the home. Yet they were careful to preserve the old Egyptian practice of using “living water” by organizing a pipe system through which the baptismal water could flow.


In the following centuries, Christians forgot the ancient tradition of the meaning of “living” water in the Nile for the baptismal ritual. Even today, the water used is contained in a symbolic “source” of a source of water and the symbol of the “living” water that flows is kept pouring over the head of the person being baptized.

Obelisks, originally solar symbols linked to sun worship, provide a further indication of the affinity between ancient Egyptian beliefs and what can be described as the second variant of the Christian Church during these early centuries. Thirteen Obelisks, transported from Egypt, are in Rome with respect to only eight other parts of the world. The largest of the Roman collection, over 30 meters tall and weighing over 400 tons, stands in St. John’s Square, a cathedral in the Lateran area of Rome (Table 35). Stone for the giant obelisk had been extracted 18 centuries earlier by Thutmose III (David) to Assuan. In a growing meltdown between the cult of Ra and Amon, the god of the state whose capital was at Tebe in Egypt, the obelisk was erected in the great temple of Karnak, where it was an important object of worship. The Lateran obelisk (see Table 35) was a gift from Constantine the Great in Rome, started in 326 AD, 14 years after his conversion to Christianity. Constantine saw no contradiction between the presentation of this pagan symbol in Rome and his Christian faith.


In view of its enormous size, it is not surprising that when Constantine died in 337 AD, the Lateran obelisk, he did not navigate beyond the port of Alexandria. He stayed there for another 20 years before Costanzo II, the son of Constantine the Great, presented his gift to Rome in 357 AD. An account of the final delivery was written by the contemporary historian Ammiano Marcellino, where it is clearly indicated that with his actions the emperor moved the religious center of the world from Egypt to Rome: “Constantine … [had ripped off the mass of the foundation from the foundation , and rightly thought that he was not committing any sacrilege in taking this miracle from a temple and consecrating it to Rome, that is to say, in the temple of the whole world. “

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