Joseph and Osiris/Serapis

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
User avatar
Giuseppe
Posts: 7547
Joined: Mon Apr 27, 2015 5:37 am
Location: Italy

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

Post by Giuseppe » Sun Jun 28, 2020 8:16 am

andrewcriddle wrote:
Sun Jun 28, 2020 6:26 am
The alleged letter of Hadrian is from one of the minor lives of the Historia Augusta and is probably entirely fictitious.
but it is an ancient forgery, not a modern forgery as Secret Mark. From this POV, it can be still useful.

https://books.google.it/books?id=BdQtsh ... ta&f=false
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

billd89
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:27 pm

Hmmm...

Post by billd89 » Sun Jun 28, 2020 10:37 am

I am entirely new to this forum, but not the internet. Did my first post 'offend' someone (??? I cannot fathom why). My 2nd Post awaits 'moderation' ('approval'); what are the politics behind this censorship, please?

Or, are ALL long posts 'moderated'?

billd89
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:27 pm

Re: Joseph/Serapis, Pt 3

Post by billd89 » Sun Jun 28, 2020 6:37 pm

See Alessandro Galimberti "The pseudo-Hadrianic Epistle in the Historia Augusta and Hadrian's religious policy" in Hadrian and the Christians, Ed. Marco Rizzi [2010], pp.101-120, esp.116. Galimberti [2010], p.120 concludes this problematic epistle is a pastiche of otherwise accurate information on the Christian/Serapis matter.

Strictly speaking, the Serapis/Christ syncretism is abit off-topic from the topic of Serapis/Joseph. There IS an enormous amount of material, literary and archeological, connecting ‘Egyptian’ Christians to Serapis in the period of and not long after after Hadrian’s rule. See Livia Capponi's “Serapis, Boukoloi and Christians from Hadrian to Marcus Aurelius” in in Hadrian and the Christians, Ed. Marco Rizzi [2010], pp.121-39.

Cappoini [2010] makes the point that Judeo-Christians had split from more orthodox Judaism before the Diaspora Revolt of AD 115 and already earned Hadrian’s support; these (Judeo-) Christians would support Serapis in the next revolt also.

p.123:
According to Justin, in fact, in the Bar Kochba revolt of 132–5, the Christians supported Rome, and even suffered violence on the part of the Jewish rebels for doing so. It is likely that a good number of Christians in Egypt wanted to be seen as independent from Judaism, and thus did not support the Jews. Paradoxically, they may have been on the side of Serapis {in AD 132}.

Hadrian and Serapis
p.124:
Abundant evidence indicates that Hadrian played a major role in the restoration work on buildings destroyed in the Diaspora Revolt {AD 115}. For this reason he was hailed as saviour and benefactor both in Egypt and in Cyrenaica. An inscription on Mons Claudianus {in Egypt} shows that the emperor celebrated his victory over the Diaspora Jews by erecting a temple to Zeus-Helios-Serapis ‘on behalf of safety and eternal victory’. There is also a debate over whether or not Hadrian restored the Alexandrian Serapeum, possibly damaged in the war. In any case, Hadrian portrayed himself as the saviour and defender of Serapis. Coins of Hadrian show the emperor clasping hands with Serapis, sitting in the Serapeion, and even assimilated with Horos and Serapis himself, while the empress Sabina is represented as Serapis’ wife Isis. [...] According to Galimberti, a major turning point in the religious policy of Hadrian was 124/5, when the emperor joined the Eleusinian mysteries and subsequently promoted mysteries elsewhere, including early forms of Christianity. At this date he also seems to have passed an edict in which he prohibited persecutions of Christians.

p.125:
In Egypt, indeed, Hadrian built new temples, where Serapis and Isis were worshipped along Hellenic gods such as Helios, Zeus Hypsistos, Dionysos, Saturn, Asklepios, Ceres-Demeter-Kore. This was in order to promote the integration of the Alexandrian and Egyptian religion with the Graeco-Roman pantheon and ultimately to foster loyalty to the empire. All these gods were deities of the underworld and symbols of resurrection and salvation and could be associated with Christ – at least in the eyes of the pagans. Apparently, Hadrian himself noticed an overlap of Egyptian Christianity with the worship of Serapis. In a letter to his brother-in-law Servianus, transmitted in the Historia Augusta, the emperor laments that, ‘The land of Egypt, the praises of which you have been recounting to me, my dear Servianus ...



See especially pp.126-9 ! Her documentation is extensive, definite.

To repudiate any Serapis connection to Early Christianity (now understood to be patently wrong), the 19th C. attack on the fictitious/'slanderous' epistle also fails as religious bias. I'm following Cappoini [2010], here.

Back to our OP topic: though the Serapis/Joseph connection seems certain, it is nowhere near as evident as the Serapis/Christian trend. Perhaps Serapis/Joseph survived longer in (Judeo-)Christian communities of rural Egypt, where 'St. Joseph the Hebrew' was openly venerated by syncretistic Jewish Christians and their Gentile followers, c. 60-190 AD? Though dying out slowly, ingrained habits and localized practice probably extended the Serapis/Joseph veneration several generations longer. Marcus Minucius Felix (c.250 AD) rebuked his friend Caecilius for, upon seeing an image of Serapis, showing that customary superstition (and vulgar impulse) common among lower-class Christians (p.129).

andrewcriddle
Posts: 1814
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:36 am

Re: Joseph/Serapis, Pt 3

Post by andrewcriddle » Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:52 am

billd89 wrote:
Sun Jun 28, 2020 6:37 pm
See Alessandro Galimberti "The pseudo-Hadrianic Epistle in the Historia Augusta and Hadrian's religious policy" in Hadrian and the Christians, Ed. Marco Rizzi [2010], pp.101-120, esp.116. Galimberti [2010], p.120 concludes this problematic epistle is a pastiche of otherwise accurate information on the Christian/Serapis matter.

Strictly speaking, the Serapis/Christ syncretism is abit off-topic from the topic of Serapis/Joseph. There IS an enormous amount of material, literary and archeological, connecting ‘Egyptian’ Christians to Serapis in the period of and not long after after Hadrian’s rule. See Livia Capponi's “Serapis, Boukoloi and Christians from Hadrian to Marcus Aurelius” in in Hadrian and the Christians, Ed. Marco Rizzi [2010], pp.121-39.

Cappoini [2010] makes the point that Judeo-Christians had split from more orthodox Judaism before the Diaspora Revolt of AD 115 and already earned Hadrian’s support; these (Judeo-) Christians would support Serapis in the next revolt also.

p.123:
According to Justin, in fact, in the Bar Kochba revolt of 132–5, the Christians supported Rome, and even suffered violence on the part of the Jewish rebels for doing so. It is likely that a good number of Christians in Egypt wanted to be seen as independent from Judaism, and thus did not support the Jews. Paradoxically, they may have been on the side of Serapis {in AD 132}.

Hadrian and Serapis
p.124:
Abundant evidence indicates that Hadrian played a major role in the restoration work on buildings destroyed in the Diaspora Revolt {AD 115}. For this reason he was hailed as saviour and benefactor both in Egypt and in Cyrenaica. An inscription on Mons Claudianus {in Egypt} shows that the emperor celebrated his victory over the Diaspora Jews by erecting a temple to Zeus-Helios-Serapis ‘on behalf of safety and eternal victory’. There is also a debate over whether or not Hadrian restored the Alexandrian Serapeum, possibly damaged in the war. In any case, Hadrian portrayed himself as the saviour and defender of Serapis. Coins of Hadrian show the emperor clasping hands with Serapis, sitting in the Serapeion, and even assimilated with Horos and Serapis himself, while the empress Sabina is represented as Serapis’ wife Isis. [...] According to Galimberti, a major turning point in the religious policy of Hadrian was 124/5, when the emperor joined the Eleusinian mysteries and subsequently promoted mysteries elsewhere, including early forms of Christianity. At this date he also seems to have passed an edict in which he prohibited persecutions of Christians.

p.125:
In Egypt, indeed, Hadrian built new temples, where Serapis and Isis were worshipped along Hellenic gods such as Helios, Zeus Hypsistos, Dionysos, Saturn, Asklepios, Ceres-Demeter-Kore. This was in order to promote the integration of the Alexandrian and Egyptian religion with the Graeco-Roman pantheon and ultimately to foster loyalty to the empire. All these gods were deities of the underworld and symbols of resurrection and salvation and could be associated with Christ – at least in the eyes of the pagans. Apparently, Hadrian himself noticed an overlap of Egyptian Christianity with the worship of Serapis. In a letter to his brother-in-law Servianus, transmitted in the Historia Augusta, the emperor laments that, ‘The land of Egypt, the praises of which you have been recounting to me, my dear Servianus ...



See especially pp.126-9 ! Her documentation is extensive, definite.

To repudiate any Serapis connection to Early Christianity (now understood to be patently wrong), the 19th C. attack on the fictitious/'slanderous' epistle also fails as religious bias. I'm following Cappoini [2010], here.
I agree this is getting off topic but I would like to comment on Galimberti's suggestion that the account in the Historia Auugusta derives from a life of Hadrian attributed to Phlegon.

I doubt if this life of Hadrian attributed to Phlegon ever existed. I doubt if the claim in the Historia Augusta
So desirous of a wide-spread reputation was Hadrian that he even wrote his own biography; this he gave to his educated freedmen, with instructions to publish it under their own names. For indeed, Phlegon's writings, it is said, are Hadrian's in reality.
should be interpreted in this way.

See https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=nPd ... ss&f=false

Andrew Criddle

User avatar
MrMacSon
Posts: 6142
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 3:45 pm

Re: Joseph/Serapis, Pt 3

Post by MrMacSon » Mon Jun 29, 2020 3:58 pm

billd89 wrote:
Sun Jun 28, 2020 6:37 pm
Strictly speaking, the Serapis/Christ syncretism is a bit off-topic from the topic of Serapis/Joseph.
I'm not sure it is off-topic, and if it could be viewed or deemed as such, it's not far off-topic.

From the OP -
Joseph D. L. wrote:
Sat Dec 28, 2019 4:12 pm
D. N. Boswell ... wrote a blog covering the apparent syncretism of Osiris/Serapis, and Joseph, the Jewish diviner who divined the dreams of Pharaoh and who eventually became a ruler in his own right in Egypt, and was even mummified, a practice used to allow the deceased to emulate Osiris.

But far be it from modern writers and sceptics to make such claims, we can see that ancient writers thought the same thing:

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


... Joseph, the son of Jacob, was put into prison because of his modesty. After the interpretation of the dream, he was the partner in the kingship. For by the foresight of a divine mind, he overcame seven years of poverty by seven years of collecting and saving fruits. Then after his death, the Egyptians made temples to him according to the ancestral patterns of their own race. And in order that posterity might learn the gratitude of a just stewardship, a peck by which he distributed the crops to the starving was placed over his head. So that he might be worshipped, he even received a more holy name from the first author of his family. For since he was a great-grandson of Sarah who at age ninety, by the favor of God, gave birth to a son for Abraham. He is called Serapis in the Greek language, that is Σάραπάις. This was against his will, so he was called this after his death.

Firmicus Maternus, The Error of the Pagan Religions, ch. 13


... For that Serapis of yours was originally one of our own saints called Joseph. The youngest of his brethren, but superior to them in intellect, he was from envy sold into Egypt, and became a slave in the family of Pharaoh king of the country. Importuned by the unchaste queen, when he refused to comply with her desire, she turned upon him and reported him to the king, by whom he is put into prison. There he displays the power of his divine inspiration, by interpreting aright the dreams of some (fellow-prisoners). Meanwhile the king, too, has some terrible dreams. Joseph being brought before him, according to his summons, was able to expound them. Having narrated the proofs of true interpretation which he had given in the prison, he opens out his dream to the king: those seven fat-fleshed and well-favoured cattle signified as many years of plenty; in like manner, the seven lean-fleshed animals predicted the scarcity of the seven following years. He accordingly recommends precautions to be taken against the future famine from the previous plenty. The king believed him. The issue of all that happened showed how wise he was, how invariably holy, and now how necessary. 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

So the conflation of Joseph and Serapis was established and known within the second century AD.

Lest a critic or sceptic lays claim that these are responses to pagan charges against Christians, all of the above quotations make it clear that it is the reverse. The Christians are claiming that the pagans recognized Joseph as Serapis, and the Christians are claiming mimicry between Joseph and Serapis.

.... This wasn't limited to Christian observation:

... R. Jehudah prohibits also found vessels with the image of a nurse or of a serapis on them. The nurse signifies Eva, who was nurse to the whole world; serapis signifies Joseph, who was a prince and supplied the whole world with bread, thereby appeasing mankind. The human image and that of a nurse are however, prohibited only when having respectively a measure in the hand and a son in the arms whom she is nursing.

Tractate Avodah Zara, ch. 3

So even the Jews recognized that such a confluence existed between their own religion and this gentile religion. Why not? Even their own texts say that they spent over four hundred years in Egypt; that Joseph had ruled Egypt and had participated in their rituals; and had their own temples next to the temples of Iah and Re: and that Moses himself was raised by an Egyptian princess and had been a priest of Osiris, and taught the gentiles their philosophy!

But God forbid anyone even suggest that a significant connection can be made between Christianity, Judaism, and paganism.

User avatar
Joseph D. L.
Posts: 1017
Joined: Sat Nov 11, 2017 2:10 am

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

Post by Joseph D. L. » Mon Jun 29, 2020 4:10 pm

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


Contextualizing all four quotations is key.
How did I use the four sources in any other way?

Tertuliian, Melito of Sardis, Minucius Felix, and the Tractate Avodah Zara, all prove that Christians and Jews did see a syncretizism with Joseph and Sarapis. I did not say, nor even imply, that this was an actual, historical syncretzism. What the four above sources prove is that Christians and Jews were just as susceptible to seeing connections between their religions and "pagan" religions, even when such historical connections were not there.
Last edited by Joseph D. L. on Mon Jun 29, 2020 4:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
MrMacSon
Posts: 6142
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 3:45 pm

Re: Joseph/Serapis, Pt 3

Post by MrMacSon » Mon Jun 29, 2020 4:26 pm

andrewcriddle wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:52 am

... I would like to comment on Galimberti's suggestion that the account in the Historia Augusta derives from a life of Hadrian attributed to Phlegon. I doubt if this 'life of Hadrian' attributed to Phlegon ever existed. I doubt if the claim in the Historia Augusta
So desirous of a wide-spread reputation was Hadrian that he even wrote his own biography; this he gave to his educated freedmen, with instructions to publish it under their own names. For indeed, Phlegon's writings, it is said, are Hadrian's in reality.
should be interpreted in this way.

See https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=nPd ... ss&f=false

No doubt what was attributed to whom in those times is up for debate. But specifically, regarding -
billd89 wrote:
Sun Jun 28, 2020 6:37 pm
Alessandro Galimberti "The pseudo-Hadrianic Epistle in the Historia Augusta and Hadrian's religious policy" in Hadrian and the Christians, Ed. Marco Rizzi [2010], pp.101-120, esp.116.
.

- I presume this is a reference to the supposed epistle/letter that Hadrian purportedly wrote in 134CE to Servianus that included -

The Christians among them [the Egyptians] are worshippers of Serapis, and those calling themselves bishops of Christ scruple not to act as the votaries of that God. The truth is, there is no one, whether Ruler of a synagogue, or Samaritan, or Presbyter of the Christians, or mathematician, or astrologer, or magician, that does not do homage to Serapis. The Patriarch himself, when he comes to Egypt, is by some compelled to worship Serapis, and by others, Christ."

[Servianus may or may not have been a cousin of Hadrian; whether he was was or not may not matter]


An aspect of provenance of this letter, and perhaps of the provenance of what Hadrian wrote in general, is -
All the productions of Hadrian have persished except one letter written to Servianus, which Vopiscus transcribed from the works of Phlegon, a freed man of Hadrian, and inserted in the life of Saturninus (Vita Saturnini 8)

in - Biblical Repository and Classical Review -
- which cites "c. 8. p. 485 of 'the book' cited", which I presume is "Vita Hadriani. Scriptorium historiae Augustae, ed Lips".

nb. That asserts Vopiscus inserted details of Hadrian in Vita Saturnini


So, -
billd89 wrote:
Sun Jun 28, 2020 6:37 pm
Galimberti [2010], p.120 concludes this problematic epistle is a pastiche of otherwise accurate information on the Christian/Serapis matter.
- is noteworthy.

As is [single quotation marks around 'Egyptian' are mine]*
billd89 wrote:
Sun Jun 28, 2020 6:37 pm

... There IS an enormous amount of material, literary and archeological, connecting ‘Egyptian’ Christians to Serapis in the period of and not long after after Hadrian’s rule.

See Livia Capponi's “Serapis, Boukoloi and Christians from Hadrian to Marcus Aurelius” in Hadrian and the Christians, Ed. Marco Rizzi [2010], pp.121-39. Cappoini [2010] makes the point that Judeo-Christians ... would support Serapis in the next revolt also.

p.123:
According to Justin, in fact, in the Bar Kochba revolt of 132–5, the 'Christians' supported Rome, and even suffered violence on the part of the Jewish rebels for doing so. It is likely that a good number of Christians in Egypt wanted to be seen as independent from Judaism, and thus did not support the Jews. Paradoxically, they may have been on the side of Serapis {in AD 132}.

See especially pp.126-9 ! Her documentation is extensive, definite.

To repudiate any Serapis connection to early Christianity (now understood to be patently wrong), the 19th C. attack on the fictitious/'slanderous' epistle also fails as religious bias. I'm following Cappoini [2010], here.
.
* I would contend that Egyptian followers of Serapis could have been some of the groups called 'Christian/s' in the first and early 2nd century.

billd89
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:27 pm

Re: Joseph/Serapis, Pt 4

Post by billd89 » Mon Jun 29, 2020 10:39 pm

One very long post of mine still 'awaits moderation.' It was Part 2, before Part 3.

"I would contend that Egyptian followers of Serapis could have been some of the groups called 'Christian/s' in the first and early 2nd century."

Agreed. There were Alexandrian and Egyptian Jews, orthodox vs. quite radical/hereticals (accepting Philo) long before there were Judeo- and Pagan/Gentile Christians. From 50-150 AD, there were probably a good number of syncretistic groups (e.g. 'Gospel of the Hebrews' AND 'Gospel of the Egyptians' among other such hieros logos), not only two flavors. Either/or has always been a ludicrous fallacy.

I can imagine the 'Joseph/Serapis' myth first originating among a small fraternity of Jewish tax-collectors deep in the Chora c.175 BC, or Hellenized Jews of some guild, turning apostate/heterdox in the hinterlands. Thus, they would be deemed 'Egyptian' (non-Alexandrian, 'Not Jewish'). They become religious and philosophical specialists, perhaps itinerant healers & teachers, at the very margins of Jewish society. Philo terms them 'Therapeutae' (c. 25 AD) but we don't know what they called their own conventicles. Surviving over six generations, such a small but vexing 'philosophical cult' (movement) - for the orthodox - might have spread to spa towns of Palestine and Syria by ~150 AD.

These are Jewish Gnostics; some became Christian after 70 AD; the field was rich with heresies and self-styled bishops.

By 135 AD, Jews had largely disappeared from the record in Alexandria. I suppose most persecuted Jews had turned 'Egyptian' (as Philo denigrated them, De Vita Mosis, 1.147; 2.201) between 113-135 AD, when gnosticism really explodes. I find no hints of the 'Joseph/Serapis' myth in Philo or anywhere else. So scant is the evidence, one suspects the conflation occurred somewhat later (after 40 AD), whenever large numbers of Alexandrian & Egyptian Jews became nominally Christian (c.75-120 AD?) Therafter, the popular 'Joseph/Serapis' Judeo-Egyptian convention became popularly 'Christian' in the city, too (c.100- AD).

That's just my hypothetical framework, subject-to-change, own opinion, etc.

Post Reply