Joseph and Osiris/Serapis

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Iaw Sabaoth
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Re: Joseph and Osiris/Serapis

Post by Iaw Sabaoth » Wed Jan 01, 2020 3:44 pm

Joseph D. L. wrote:
Tue Dec 31, 2019 7:24 pm

Right there. Paul is quoting two pagan poets to preach his own god.
...
So both poets are in fact address Zeus. And yet Paul feels that these poets' ideas of Zeus are similar to his god so much that he calls attention to it. Well, if it's good enough for the goose, it's good enough for us
Great points. Also interesting is that Acts reports how Paul himself was conflated/syncretzed/whatever with Hermes Trismegistus, while Barnabas was conflated with Zeus. Likewise, Paul also conflated his God with the Roman “Unknown God” of the pagan sanctuary at Mars Hill. As he said, he tried to be all things to all men. He even had no problem participating in pagan sacrifice meals. It does indeed s em like this distancing of themselves from pagans was a later development.

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GakuseiDon
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Re: Joseph and Osiris/Serapis

Post by GakuseiDon » Wed Jan 01, 2020 5:09 pm

Joseph D. L. wrote:
Tue Dec 31, 2019 7:24 pm
They're not making some off the cuff comparison like Justin does. They are explicitly claiming that the Egyptians worship Joseph as Serapis. That is nearly identical to what Herodotus said regarding Osiris and Dionysus.
My argument is: the lack of evidence to support any type of syncretism between OT Joseph and Serapis suggests that they were indeed making up the comparison, in the exact same way that Justin Martyr did. There are lots of parallels listed by early Christian apologists: some meaningful, most not so meaningful. So in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it appears to me that the Joseph/Serapis link is not meaningful as evidence of syncretism.

So what evidence would I hope to see? If there was some kind of syncretism, then in my view it would mean that concepts surrounding the figures would be transported as well. IOW, Christians might bring in additional characteristics about Serapis and apply them to OT Joseph; or Egyptians might bring in Judaic concepts and apply them to Serapis. It would be interesting to see that impact.
Joseph D. L. wrote:
Tue Dec 31, 2019 7:24 pm
Are you serious? Whole books by Christian apologists and secular scholars have been written denying the very notion that paganism can be comparable to Judaism and Christianity. And their arguments are the same "apples to oranges" tripe, without understanding any of the nuance, or history, of the phenomenon of syncretism.
Nowadays I'm not interested in the views of Christian apologists unless they've been dead for 1700 years. But I would be interested in the arguments of modern secular scholars who have written to deny that significant connections can be made between paganism, Judaism and Christianity. Mainstream scholarship is filled with articles and theses showing connections between the three. So such secular scholars denying those connections would have to be on the fringe. Can you suggest an author and/or book by a secular scholar please? I'd love to check out why they think mainstream scholarship is wrong.
It is really important, in life, to concentrate our minds on our enthusiasms, not on our dislikes. -- Roger Pearse

andrewcriddle
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Re: Joseph and Osiris/Serapis

Post by andrewcriddle » Thu Jan 02, 2020 1:36 am

There is a discussion of the 8th century P Berlin 8313 here

FWIW it is clearly a Christian text which mention the traditional Egyptian gods long after their cults had disappeared.

Andrew Criddle

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Joseph D. L.
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Re: Joseph and Osiris/Serapis

Post by Joseph D. L. » Thu Jan 02, 2020 10:04 am

andrewcriddle wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 1:36 am
There is a discussion of the 8th century P Berlin 8313 here

FWIW it is clearly a Christian text which mention the traditional Egyptian gods long after their cults had disappeared.

Andrew Criddle
Add to the depiction of Christ as Pharaoh/Horus during the Roman Imperial era and it can be said that this synthesis took place fairly early.

From what I recall reading, Coptic Christians were still depicting Christ as Horus during the medieval period, and the image of the Madonna with her child is an overtly Egyptian icon.

The overall point is that the argumentum ad parallelomenium is used as a hand-wave dismissal for any and all comparisons to Christianity, Judaism, and paganism. Ancient people didn't have these restrictions or hangups and freely blended their religious expressions together.

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Joseph D. L.
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Re: Joseph and Osiris/Serapis

Post by Joseph D. L. » Thu Jan 02, 2020 10:31 am

GakuseiDon wrote:
Wed Jan 01, 2020 5:09 pm
My argument is: the lack of evidence to support any type of syncretism between OT Joseph and Serapis suggests that they were indeed making up the comparison, in the exact same way that Justin Martyr did.
Are you even reading this? Justin Martyr wasn't making up comparisons, i.e. he just made up Perseus' virgin birth or Dionysus' ascent into Heaven. And if you're going to claim these have no similarities to Christ, then I can't help you man.

Once again, the fact that Christians and Jews felt that the Egyptians worshiped Joseph as Serapis is proof that they indeed took part in syncretizing with other cultures.

Just to illustrate this point further:

To the effect that Sarapis is Joseph … the interpretation has roots going back at least to the 2nd century B.C. … Thus it does appear that the several versions of the finding of Joseph’s bones agree in a number of respects with the Osiris myth as told by Plutarch (A.D. 46-120) in his treatise De Iside et Osiride which he dedicated to Clea, a priestess of Osiris living at Delphi (364e). Osiris and Joseph are both put in coffins, their coffins are thrown into the Nile, are searched for and found, their scattered limbs or bones are reassembled, and moreover the fact that both are taken to the water, whether Sea or Nile, has the purpose of effecting somehow the flooding of the river. With these correspondences, however, and that of the introduction of regular agriculture, the list of parallels is still not quite complete. … We observe that both in the god Sarapis himself and in his component deities Osiris and Apis there were features with which Joseph could be assimilated.

Dr. Gerard Mussies, in Studies in Hellenistic Religions

And going off of Tertullian, Melito, Firmicus Maternus, and the Talmud, they did indeed assimilate Joseph into the Egyptian pantheon. Whether or not that has any historic basis is beyond the point. THE POINT IS THEY DID IT ANYWAY.
There are lots of parallels listed by early Christian apologists: some meaningful, most not so meaningful. So in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it appears to me that the Joseph/Serapis link is not meaningful as evidence of syncretism.
Tell that to the above Christians and Jews then. It is evidence of a broader religious synthesis between the groups. Even if the Egyptians never had any involvment (which I'm not saying they did), clearly Christians and Jews thought so, and syncretism doesn't have to be a unified agreement. Like a younger brother trying to imitate his older brother without his consent to appear cooler.
So what evidence would I hope to see? If there was some kind of syncretism, then in my view it would mean that concepts surrounding the figures would be transported as well. IOW, Christians might bring in additional characteristics about Serapis and apply them to OT Joseph; or Egyptians might bring in Judaic concepts and apply them to Serapis. It would be interesting to see that impact.
What are you even saying here? That the evidence needs to comport to your expectations? That's not how history is done.

Not only that, you're creating a strawman. I never said that Egyptians actually worshiped Joseph. That is your own misunderstanding, and I will not abide by it.
Nowadays I'm not interested in the views of Christian apologists unless they've been dead for 1700 years. But I would be interested in the arguments of modern secular scholars who have written to deny that significant connections can be made between paganism, Judaism and Christianity. Mainstream scholarship is filled with articles and theses showing connections between the three. So such secular scholars denying those connections would have to be on the fringe. Can you suggest an author and/or book by a secular scholar please? I'd love to check out why they think mainstream scholarship is wrong.
???

What are you asking here? The scholars I'm referring too, like Ehrman and J.Z. Smith, argue against the mythicist position of pagan parallels and represent the mainstream.

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Joseph D. L.
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Re: Joseph and Osiris/Serapis

Post by Joseph D. L. » Thu Jan 02, 2020 3:25 pm

I will elucidate further that the phenomenon of syncretism did not always carry over to aspects of both religions.

For Egyptians do not all worship the same gods in the same way. Only the gods Isis and Osiris (the latter of whom they say is Dionysos) are worshiped in the same manner by all Egyptians. … The Egyptians say that Demeter and Dionysos reign over those in the underworld. …
The last of these to reign over Egypt was Horus son of Osiris, whom the Hellenes name Apollo. It was he who had subdued Typhon and became the last of these divine kings of Egypt. His father Osiris is called Dionysos by the Hellenes. … They say Apollo and Artemis are the children of Dionysos and Isis, and that Leto became their nurse and savior. Apollo in Egyptian is Horus, Demeter is Isis, and Artemis is Boubastis.

Herodotus, Histories


And of the ancient Greek writers of mythology some give to Osiris the name Dionysus. … Osiris, they say, was also interested in agriculture and was reared in Nysa, a city of Arabia Felix near Egypt, being a son of Zeus; and the name which he bears among the Greeks is derived both from his father and from the birthplace, since he is called Dionysus. …
The discovery of ivy is also attributed to Osiris by the Egyptians and made sacred to this god, just as the Greeks also do in the case of Dionysus. … For the rite of Osiris is the same as that of Dionysus and that of Isis very similar to that of Demeter, the names alone having been interchanged.

Diodorus of Sicily, Library of History

So we can easily see that to these ancient writers Osiris and Dionysus were not only thought of being worshiped in the others' place, but that they were the same god, full stop.

One of the first acts related of Osiris in his reign was to deliver the Egyptians from their destitute and brutish manner of living. This he did by showing them the fruits of cultivation, by giving them laws, and by teaching them to honour the gods. Later he travelled over the whole earth civilizing it without the slightest need of arms, but most of the peoples he won over to his way by the charm of his persuasive discourse combined with song and all manner of music. Hence the Greeks came to identify him with Dionysus. … It is better to identify Osiris with Dionysus. … Dionysus also they call Hyes since he is lord of the nature of moisture; and he is no other than Osiris. … That Osiris is identical with Dionysus who could more fittingly know than yourself, Clea? For you are at the head of the inspired maidens of Delphi, and have been consecrated by your father and mother in the holy rites of Osiris.

Plutarch, Moralia

And it's easy to see why as both gods shared commonalities, not only in their respective histories but also how they worshiped.

But nevertheless not all attributes were shared between them. Osiris was never sewn to his father's thigh, and Dionysus never married his sister [Demeter was, if anything, his aunt]. Nor were these traits ever shared. So syncretism isn't always focused on the absolute mirroring of the two cultures.

Another is of Attis and Horus.

Image

The above image is of Attis-Harpocrates, the child Horus, from the second century bc. So Attis and Horus were syncretized. And just like Osiris and Dionysus, despite that they still retained their personal differences.

Another:

Image

Attis, as Mithras, slays the bull as depicted from the first century bc terracotta plaque. So Attis and Mithras were syncretized.

And yet despite this, only one, the Attis cult, shows a noticeable change in their religious expressions, while the Mithraic cult seems to have taken little from the Attis cult. Just because two religions are syncretized doesn't mean they are both thrown into a blender and come out the same. One religion can be more effected than the other.

So coming back to the Joseph/Serapis syncretism, while it wouldn't be a direct syncretism given that the Egyptians did not worship Joseph in anyway (at least as far as I can see), that Christians and Jews were making such a claim is proof of their own syncretism to the Egyptians, with the psychological projections and disingeniousness that comes with the dogmatic mindset.

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GakuseiDon
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Re: Joseph and Osiris/Serapis

Post by GakuseiDon » Thu Jan 02, 2020 11:16 pm

Joseph D. L. wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 3:25 pm
So coming back to the Joseph/Serapis syncretism, while it wouldn't be a direct syncretism given that the Egyptians did not worship Joseph in anyway (at least as far as I can see), that Christians and Jews were making such a claim is proof of their own syncretism to the Egyptians, with the psychological projections and disingeniousness that comes with the dogmatic mindset.
I wonder if this is just a disagreement over the meaning of syncretism. A hypothetical question: If the early writers were lying about the connection between Joseph and Serapis, would their claims still be an example of syncretism? (My answer would be 'no', unless the claims resulted in some actual change to their beliefs. But the claims alone, untrue and with no impact on their beliefs, is not IMHO an example of syncretism. Perhaps we differ there?)
It is really important, in life, to concentrate our minds on our enthusiasms, not on our dislikes. -- Roger Pearse

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Joseph D. L.
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Re: Joseph and Osiris/Serapis

Post by Joseph D. L. » Fri Jan 03, 2020 12:09 pm

GakuseiDon wrote:
Thu Jan 02, 2020 11:16 pm
I wonder if this is just a disagreement over the meaning of syncretism. A hypothetical question: If the early writers were lying about the connection between Joseph and Serapis, would their claims still be an example of syncretism? (My answer would be 'no', unless the claims resulted in some actual change to their beliefs. But the claims alone, untrue and with no impact on their beliefs, is not IMHO an example of syncretism. Perhaps we differ there?)
It's not a matter of difference of opinion. You have a completely skewed understanding of religious expressions and its evolution, especially where the phenomenon of syncretism is involved.
If the early writers were lying about the connection between Joseph and Serapis, would their claims still be an example of syncretism?
They're not lying. They are expressing a belief. Truth and lies at that point are irrelevant terms.

I can only say you are utterly ignorant of this. Even after I went over examples of syncretism where changes were not even made. That's not how syncretism works. And yes, it did impact their beliefs, because they believed that Joseph and Serapis were the same!

Are you even paying attention here? Why am I wasting my time with this?

billd89
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Re: Joseph/Serapis; "Egyptians" is the Confusion

Post by billd89 » Fri Jun 26, 2020 10:00 am

[A.]
The Egyptians worshipped Joseph the Hebrew, who was called Serapis, because he supplied them with corn during the years of famine.
Melito of Sardis, Fragment 1. 56

[B.]
For that Serapis of yours was originally one of our own saints called Joseph. ... So Pharaoh set him over all Egypt, that he might secure the provision of grain for it, and thenceforth administer its government. They called him Serapis, from the turban which adorned his head.
Tertullian, Ad Nations, bk. 2, ch. 8

[C.]
In Egypt this Joseph is worshiped and adored; his statue is guarded by a throng of temple wardens, and in memory of old time the misguided people with stubborn enthusiasm still today clings to the liturgy of a cult established in honor of a man most upright and most wise."
Firmicus Maternus, De errore profanarum religionum 13.2

[D.]
"Serapis signifies Joseph, who was a prince and supplied the whole world with bread, thereby appeasing mankind.
Tractate Avodah Zara, ch. 3

Primary evidence for this last quotation [D.] comes from b. ‘Abod. Zar.42a.

Contextualizing all four quotations is key. Here is the scholarly consensus, carefully and conservatively understanding the matter at hand.
"There are hints in the Mishnah and in some second-century writers, such as Melito of Sardis and Tertullian, of a Jewish interpretation of Serapis as Joseph." The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol.13 [1998], p.753. It's a JEWISH, not an "Egyptian", substitution or conflation we're discussing.

[A.] is very problematic. (Melito is anti-semitic, elsewhere.) And there is no historical evidence that anyone worshipped Joseph as a "god" - the correct interpretation is "venerated". (The distinction is important: by crude analogy, Roman Catholics venerate saints, they don't worship them as God, etc.) Assuming Melito of Sardis is writing c. AD 175, who were these "Egyptians" who "worshipped Joseph" ... in the past tense? It sounds like hearsay from Melito, a dubious claim which seems garbled.

[B.] Tertullian corrects the the sense, from 'worship' to 'veneration'; the tone is more nearly apocryphal. Biblical myth is introduced as supporting evidence, speculation about the turban is nonsensical (turban=modius??): the information is still clearly garbled, aswego.

[C.] Firmicus Maternus (346 AD) is marginally better, but slanted: in fact, there's a cult of Serapis (embarrassing fact: pagan god. We see what's omitted!), and its statue is venerated by some as Joseph. Even so, this isn't appropriate. According to tradition (prior to the 4th C. AD) "they say" Joseph was considered worthy of divine worship (as a holy saint, probably; substitute divinity, doubtfully) ... but again, by whom, exactly?

[D.] is oblique, but nothing supports nor implies a charge of "Joseph worship" either. Allegorical association, by contrast, is definitely implied.

So, who were these 150 AD "Egyptians" in fact? Locals (of Jewish descent and affiliation), a heterodox Judeo-Egyptian community that was hidden or rather assimilated, not "Jewish" in the prevailing sense of the word even then: so-called 'Egyptians', instead. They were probably seen as apostates to pious Jews who gravitated to rabbinical Judaism and 'wrote history', they literally disappeared.

I am curious if anyone has examined that book by Isidore Lévy, Serapis[1913]?

I presume you've all seen:
a)Louis H. Feldman, Josephus's Interpretation of the Bible [1998], p.349 n.35
b)Rivka Ulmer, Egyptian Cultural Icons in Midrash, Studia Judaica Vol. 23 [2009], p.232, n.265.

I am convinced something is here, syncretistic and conflated, however misunderstood. But there is no archaeological evidence of any 'Joseph cult', nothing existed 'from the time of Pharoah'. It's simple: Egyptians didn't worship Joseph. What's more, Philo or Josephus (among others: Zosimos of Panopolis, etc.) would have mentioned such practice or cult from Antiquity; again, no there wasn't. Ditto, the heretic lists of Church fathers.

The meaning - something else - seems fairly obvious. As an oneiromancer, Joseph became associated with Serapis, let's say, sometime after c.125 BC. After the pogroms of 38 AD and 115 AD, Judaism in Egypt went underground and assimilated. A Serapis/Joseph syncretism, as a popular movement, probably dates to that period. By 125 AD, his 'cult' (perhaps following is better) might have included a 'priesthood' (prefer: theosophical specialists), which/who came to occupy a fairly small number of temples (and localized neighborhoods) where psycho-spiritual healings were practiced. And their entrée was coded by the Jewish myth of Joseph: is that not suggestive, in itself?

Without attacking such apostates by name, Rabbi Juda ben Ilai (c.150 AD in Tiberias Palestine) could rule against Jews handling Serapis/Joseph utensils, by an allegory that was well-known. Why would he need to do so? Boundaries needed to be set, reiterated. Some Jews were too liberal in their affiliations, the same old story...

Logically, Philo's radical allegorists (c. 25 AD) - and any syncretistic Judeo-Egyptian mystery cults - were heretical, anathematized by normative Judaism of the day. But they certainly existed! What did their elders believe; who were their followers? Surely, people they healed at spas, students of syncretistic philosophy, disaffected philosophical Jews and Gentiles curious at the preaching. Their tendency grew, spread across Egypt; Philo's universalist writing is directed at such people, to influence them (back) to his Judaism.

Philo says {DVC 3.21-22} "Now this class of persons may be met with in many places, ... and there is the greatest number of such men in Egypt, in every one of the districts, or nomi as they are called, and especially around Alexandria; (22) and from all quarters those who are the best of these therapeutae proceed on their pilgrimage..."

Yet there is no other record of that specific group, so named. "The Egyptian Therapeutae" - note that Philo NEVER calls them 'Jewish', either. Why? Were they too marginal or controversial to name accurately? Did most Jews consider them apostates, or were they seen like (most) American Jews today?

Massey (1907) notes: “In the transition from the old Egyptian religion to the new cult of Christianity there was no factor of profounder importance than the worship of Serapis. As the Emperor Hadrian relates, in his well-known letter to Servianus, ‘those who worship Serapis are likewise Christians; even those who style themselves the Bishops of Christ are devoted to Serapis.’ […] Hence, as Diodorus says (I. 25), Serapis was a name given to all persons after their death or in their resurrection.” (See Ancient Egypt, the Light of the World, Vol.II, p.756).

The (unspeakable, former) Jews worshipping Serapis; and Christians worshipping Serapis! That's some wild conflation too, but a Roman outsider might not accurately appraise the shifting heterodoxical situation in Alexandria c. AD 140. The Roman visitor was confounded because he was ignorant; doctrinal nuances were totally lost on him: his was a superficial observation.

An older connection between the Serapis cult and the Therapeutae (c. 150 BC) is well-established from archaeological evidence (see below*). That cult was syncretistic. Likewise, the later Philonic community (25 AD) on Lake Mareotis was an eclectic fellowship of itinerant healers, philosophers and spiritual tradesmen. Ethnically, however, they were Jews or from mixed marriages/communities of Judeo-Greeks and -Egyptians, plus Gentile sympathetizers, as proselytes/converts: all following an evolving syncretistic Helios/Chariot creed (which Philo alludes to, DVC3/27; 11/89).

Can we admit them as quasi-Jewish at least, in 25 AD, then 'Egyptianized' by 150 AD? This transition and evolution occurred over five generations. So distant outsider's best report (c.350 AD) of the Joseph/Serapis affiliation is evidence of a marginal/dissident, relic Judaeo-Egyptian tradition then ~300-350 years old.

Surprisingly, Scholem (1941) associates the Therapeutae among the earliest (proto-?) Merkebah mystics, in his oblique discussion of Jewish Gnosticism, pp.13-4:
"In the same way, all Jewish mystics, from the Therapeutae, whose doctrine was described by Philo of Alexandria, to the latest Hasid, are at one in giving a mystical interpretation to the Torah; the Torah is to them a living organism animated by a secret life which streams and pulsates below the crust of its literal meaning."

Therapeutae were formerly GREEK 'devotees of the god' (c.150 BC), with no identification to 'Jewish Joseph' whatsoever; by Philo's time (c.25 AD), however, they were - for his apologia, DVC - a nebulous class of philosophers and itinerant soul-healers associated in various unnamed (Jewish) lodges and perhaps attending healing temples ("they are called therapeutae and therapeutrides, {from "to heal."} either because they process an art of medicine more excellent than that in general use in cities (for that only heals bodies, but the other heals souls which are under the mastery of terrible and almost incurable diseases..."). IF Philo knew any Joseph/Serapis connection - for at least some of these Therapeutae - he avoids the scandal of its mention. Jews and Greeks alike must have been furious at such religious renegades/interlopers. Philo's defense is all the more extraordinary, but he is careful not to divulge their specific beliefs, or even if they constitute a (alternative) Jewish mystery cult.

* Philip A. Harland, Dynamics of Identity ... 009], p.75
The so-called Sarapeum correspondence from Memphis in Egypt provides snap-shots of relations among those active within the sanctuaries of the gods Sarapis and Anubis in the second century bce (see UPZ volume 1 for the papyri). Memphis was located on the west bank of the Nile, about 245 km south of Alexandria, or 20 km south of Cairo. Many letters on papyri have survived concerning these closely associated sanctuaries which were on the edge of town, letters that shed light on functionaries and administration, as well as the importance of the “detainees” (κάτοχοι), who were (voluntarily) being “held fast” or “detained” (κατέχω; cf. παρακατέχω) in the service of Sarapis.* Most of the correspondence came into the possession of one Ptolemaios, from Macedonia, who was a “detainee” in the Sarapeum for at least twenty years (from 172–152 bce or beyond). Several of the letters pertain to Ptolemaios’s friends, fellow-devotees, and family, including his actual brothers, Sarapion, Hippalos, and Apollonios (the younger).

* PZ I 8 = PLond I 44, lines 18–19, speaks of a κάτοχος as “one of the therapeutists who are held fast by Sarapis.” Also see IPriene 195 (line 28) and ISmyrna 725 (= CIG 3163) for a similar use of being “held fast” by Sarapis. For groups of “therapeutists” devoted to Serapis and/or Isis see IDelos2077, 2080–81 (second-fi rst cent. bce); SIRIS 318–19 (Kyzikos; first cent. ce); IMagnSip 15 (= SIRIS307; second cent. bce and second cent. ce); IPergamon 338 (= SIRIS 314).


andrewcriddle
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Re: Joseph/Serapis; "Egyptians" is the Confusion

Post by andrewcriddle » Sun Jun 28, 2020 6:26 am

billd89 wrote:
Fri Jun 26, 2020 10:00 am


Massey (1907) notes: “In the transition from the old Egyptian religion to the new cult of Christianity there was no factor of profounder importance than the worship of Serapis. As the Emperor Hadrian relates, in his well-known letter to Servianus, ‘those who worship Serapis are likewise Christians; even those who style themselves the Bishops of Christ are devoted to Serapis.’ […] Hence, as Diodorus says (I. 25), Serapis was a name given to all persons after their death or in their resurrection.” (See Ancient Egypt, the Light of the World, Vol.II, p.756).

The (unspeakable, former) Jews worshipping Serapis; and Christians worshipping Serapis! That's some wild conflation too, but a Roman outsider might not accurately appraise the shifting heterodoxical situation in Alexandria c. AD 140. The Roman visitor was confounded because he was ignorant; doctrinal nuances were totally lost on him: his was a superficial observation.
The alleged letter of Hadrian is from one of the minor lives of the Historia Augusta and is probably entirely fictitious.

Andrew Criddle

Edited to Add

See e.g. viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1245&p=28094&#p28094

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