Chnoubis/Chnoumis: never before mentioned here???

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Chnoubis/Chnoumis: never before mentioned here???

Post by billd89 »

This news item led me to 'bump' this thread which had no replies. (Obviously, I'm very intrigued by Egyptian snake-gods & such.)

What is the earliest date attesting to this Graeco-Egyptian god? I see papyri evidence c.145 BC but perhaps the Greek variant may be c.300 BC (Egyptian Khnum/Chnemu is obviously older).

Chnoubis was the Nile god of Elephantine and those Chaldean Jews had an adjacent Temple worshipping Yahu (same-same?) c. 410 BC. Ialdabaoth is the Jewish name for Chnoubis, who was also called Agathodaimon in Alexandria. Everyone has been led to believe Ialdabaoth only 'apppears' in the 2nd C AD -- that is misinformative. The association of Yahu-Chnemu was obviously hundreds of years before that, but what's most intriguing is the Jewish adaptation - the 'flourishing' came later.

Attilio Mastrocinque, From Jewish Magic to Gnosticism {2005], pp.61-8 has some extraordinary information. See LINK;

Chnoubis/Chnoumis was one of the 36 Egyptian Decans, each of which occupied 10 degrees of the Zodiac. His image consists of two elements: a snake's body and a lion's head emanating rays. A similar god was raised to the status of supreme deity by doctrinal circles close to Gnosticism. The idea that the supreme god had the form of a lion and a snake was, as we have seen, held by gnosticizing non-Christian magi, who invoked him with the words: “Hail, Serpent, indomitable Lion”

In their passionate quest for the true image of the Hebrew god, Bible scholars must have noticed that the word YHWH resembled the Aramaic HYWAH, ‘animal’. There are traces of this thinking in Gnostic treatises (i.e. Origin of the World (NHC II,5) 114; 119; Origen, Cels. VI 30, etc.) in which the Hebrew god, Ialdabaoth, together with the other Archons of the planetary spheres, had the form of an animal, especially that of a lion. It was widely believed by Gnostics that the Kosmokrator, the Lord of the World, had the form of a snake. In the Apocryphon of John (NHC II,1; III,I; IV,1; BG 8502,2,10) we read that Ialdabaoth “had the form of a dragon, the face of a lion with fiery eyes darting lightning and flames ... and (Sophia) wrapped him in a shining cloud...”. This corresponds exactly to a description of Chnoubis, as does that of the indomitable Lion-Serpent, to whom however prayers were offered.

On gems his name often appears as Chnoumis, undoubtedly because this god was identified with the Egyptian creator god Chnum. In Egypt Chnum was worshipped mainly in Syene/Elephantine as the god of the Nile flood. … also identified with the Agathodaimon*, the Egyptian snake with a human head, the Lord of Destiny.

* Encyclopaedia of Islam, p.3 (edit. K. Fleet, et al.): “In the Hellenistic period, Agathodaimon became the patron god of Alexandria and was often portrayed as a serpent. The Egyptian writer Manetho (third century B.C.E.) named him among the old kings of his country. Agathodaimon also became a prominent figure in the half-philosophical, half-religious literature of Hermeticism that had its origins in Egypt…”

The image of Chnoubis, the serpent with a lion's head emanating rays, was reproduced over and over again on emerald-green stones. Chnoubis was certainly one of the figures most often seen on magical gems. The rays encircling his head have always been considered proof that Chnoubis was a sun-god. This has a positive connotation, evoking the luminous nature of the Gnostic and astrological god of the pole, who had the form of a snake or a lion.

p.64-5: Another problem is posed by recurring inscriptions describing Chnoubis as the conqueror of giants… In a complex ‘Hebrew’ exorcism performed in the name of the Hebrew God, attributed to the Egyptian magus Pibechis, the Hebrew god Sabaoth is invoked and hailed as ‘he who destroyed the giants with lightning’. Several parts of this text are inspired by Rabbinic tradition, confirming how deeply rooted the theme of giants and of Chnoubis gigantorekta was in Judaic doctrine. … The identification of Chnoubis with the Hebrew god explains the title ‘he who broke (or stifled) the giants’: the divinity of Elephantine, Chnum, was the god who brought the Nile flood, who ruled over water and all liquid elements, and therefore had also sent the Flood. The Bible frequently mentions Yahweh's dominion over the waters, [p.66] particularly the Red Sea and the Nile.

One of the oldest beliefs - found in Enochic literature - on which Gnostic doctrine is based has its origin in an interpretation of a passage in Genesis 6.4, which tells the story of the angels [and Nephilim]… The myth of the birth of the giants and their destruction by God flourished to an extraordinary degree in late-Hellenic Judaic literature (especially in the books of Enoch)…

The biblical episode was of fundamental importance in the development of Gnosticism, because it showed the Lord repenting of his creation and willing to save only the few spiritual men, the chosen ones. … we will only focus on the variation which states that the destroyer of giants was the god with the form of a snake. As we have read in the passage from lrenaeus describing Ophitic doctrine, in which the heresiologist asserts that the serpent, son of Ialdabaoth , but also an instrument of the divine Mother, [p.67] introduced Adam and Eve to gnosis in the Garden of Eden, so that Ialdabaoth was angered and drove out the first men and also the serpent: "Sed et Serpentem adversus Patrem operantem deiectum ab eo in deorsum mundum. In potestatem autem suam redigentem Angelos qui hie sunt ... " Having been hurled by Ialdabaoth down to earth, the serpent therefore subjugated the angels who were there. In the Ophite myth the Serpent surrounded himself with demons, his children, and caused harm to humankind. He was, therefore, the Devil, according to lrenaeus. In the speculations of Hebraizing magi sympathetic to Ophite ideas and worshippers of Chnoubis, the repentant creator of the Bible became the serpent that ‘broke and stifled’ the giants, who were the angels' children. In Gnostic texts the serpent is the creator's disobedient son, while in Judea-Egyptian doctrine Chnoubis is the creator himself, who sent the Flood to destroy the whole of creation, except for the few righteous men, by water.

Christianization […] clashed with Jewish thinking and the ideas of peoples influenced by Judaism who revered the Lion-Serpent as a manifestation of the Hebrew god. Christian Gnosticism identified Chnoubis with the devil, the Beast of the Apocalypse, whereas doctrines similar to Gnosticism which remained faithful to Egyptian Judaism continued to revere that divinity.

Independently, we know that Philo's "radical allegorizers" are (Gnostic) intellectuals/writers among heterodox Judaic groups later called Ophite, Sethian, Cainite, etc. We don't know exactly where in the Diaspora these dissidents came from or resided, but we can assume these are renegade Jewish communities outside of Roman Palestine by the First C. BC. Most of the evidence points directly at Egypt. Judeo-Egyptian gnostics were already seeking salvation from a wicked Demiurge, hoping for the Christos. Obviously, not every Jew envisioned the Creator-Logos this negatively; Philo tried to explain a sensible middle-way leading back to the primacy of the Torah.

A few important takeaways:
1) For allegorizers, Yahu-Chnemu (c.400 BC) later became (c.50 BC) the Cosmocrator Ialdabaoth; his 'son' is the Serpent Sabaoth, etc. in Judeo-Egyptian folklore and such radical/heretical communities beyond the control of 'Jewish authorities.'
2) Ialdabaoth/Agathodaimon ('Jewish') worship at pagan temples seems most plausible. Heterodox Judaism probably took many forms we cannot imagine (assuming the LXX was Law and obeyed), largely censored from history.
3) Xians repudiated all this, presumably early on. Ialdabaoth was defined as satanic; Jewish religious authorities had initiated that, for even in Philo's day (c.25 AD) such radical allegorizers were anathematized.

Obviously, there is much in Mastrocinque's book to prove that 'Ophites didn't just suddenly appear' and 'Gnosticism wasn't new' in the First C. AD.

Nero. AD 54-68. 'Agathodaimon' Tetradrachm, 56 AD:

Ialdabaoth gem, Undated:
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Re: Chnoubis/Chnoumis (=Deus Israel?) : hundreds of gems

Post by billd89 »

Adonai was associated with The Great Serpent, Agathodaimon (c.400 BC). The Egyptian Anguipede (c.75 AD?) form was derivative from (Egyptian) Agathodaimon, and manufactured on hundreds of gems.

Obviously, Agathodaimon:

Carl Jung thought:
"It is Egyptian. Here the serpent is carved, which symbolizes Christ. Above it, the face of a woman; below the number 8, which is the symbol of the Infinite, of the Labyrinth, and the Road to the Unconscious. I have changed one or two things on the ring so that the symbol will be Christian. All these symbols are absolutely alive within me, and each one of them creates a reaction within my soul."

On the reverse, however, was The Lion of Judah.


James H. Charlesworth, The Good And Evil Serpent: How a Universal Symbol Became Christianized [2010], p.157:
On magical gems a serpent figure appears; it is named Chnoubis (Xνούβις, Χνουβις, Χνοῦβις, Χνουμς, Χνουφίς, Χνουμ, Χνουβιζ, etc.).246 The origin of the myth is Egyptian. In Elephantine, from which so many Aramaic papyri have been recovered, Chnoubis was hailed as the king of the first cataract of the Nile. [...] One gem with Chnoubis in the middle has written around its edges the names Gabriel, Ouriel, and Souriel. On the back appears the name Adonai. The first three are the names of the archangels; the back contains the Hebrew name “Lord,” which is to be pronounced when God's own name (the ineffable Tetragrammaton) appears in a text, and in place of it. What does this serpent god symbolize? It is far from clear. Perhaps it is associated with the Egyptian god Khnoum and has some solar meaning.


Véronique Dasen and Árpád M. Nagy, "Gems," in D. Frankfurter (ed.) Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic [2019], pp.416-8:
3.2 Innovation
3.2.1 New Schemes The Anguipede

Some iconographic schemes are found exclusively on magical gems and related amulets. They were most likely created by experts using specific elements of ritual practice from different cultural traditions in order to construct new,

powerful images. The most frequent is the scheme called Anguipede, made of a cock-headed and snake-legged human figure in armour, holding a whip in one hand, a round shield in the other (Illustration 17.3).57 Even though most iconographical motifs in the visual language of the Roman Imperial period are well-known, this particular figure does not derive from either the Egyptian or from the Greco-Roman tradition. Instead, it is a new construction related to the God of Israel. The heterogeneous elements of the scheme can only be viewed as a unity by arranging the material around the Hebrew root GBR. While both the cock’s head and the male body can be read as “gever,” the latter word is represented in the form of a warrior in a cuirass (gibbor). The double snake’s legs also relate to the same stem. This iconographic motif is a general symbol of the gigantes (gibbor) in Greco-Roman art, and, in this case connotes “gigantic” valour.58 All these elements constitute the image of a mighty (gvurah) God — in short, the Mighty One (ha-Gvurah). The elements that combine to form the figure of the Anguipede serve, if translated into Hebrew, to define a mighty name of power, the name of the Allmighty. The ritual specialist could call upon Deus Israel through the image. According to E. Zwierlein-Diehl, the shield designates God as hyperaspistês, “who protects with his shield,” well-known in the Septuagint.59 The image thus does not represent God, only one of his names, and hence does not contravene Jewish Law. It is an invention that should be understood as an intellectual attempt to incorporate the God of Israel into the broader magical koinê of the Roman Imperial period — and not solely through his names, but also through a unique image.60

57 Á.M. Nagy, “Figuring out the Anquipede: Magical Gems and their Relation to Judaism,” Journal of Roman Archaeology 15 (2002): 159–172. More than 670 ancient and post-antique gems are today recorded with the Anguipede; Á.M. Nagy, “Figuring out the Anquipede-bis. A Statistical Overview,” in Magical Gems in Their Context.
58 In this scheme, the motif of the double snake’s legs is not connected to the biblical giants (e.g. Gen 6.4). In the Bible, ‘gibbor’ can also serve as a name of God; for an overview of the sources, see Á.M. Nagy, “Gemmae magicae selectae. Sept notes sur l’interprétation des gemmes magiques,” in Gemme gnostiche e cultura ellenistica: atti dell’Incontro di studio: Verona, 22–23 Ottobre 1999, ed. A. Mastrocinque (Bologna: Pàtron, 2002), 166, note 42.
59 Zwierlein-Diehl, Magische Amulette und andere Gemmen, 30–31.
60 Contra G. Bohak, Early Jewish Magic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 197, see also 198, 279 (without counter-arguments regarding the iconography). The gem Bohak gives as an example (CBd-451) is post-antique, and is thus irrelevant for the ancient meaning of the Anguipede. The statistical analysis of the more than six hundred Anguipede-gems has justified the hypothesis that the ancient use of the scheme cannot be separated from Deus Israel; Á.M. Nagy, “Figuring out the Anquipede-bis.”

p.418: Chnoubis

A second familiar figure on magical gems is the lion-headed and radiate snake, Chnoubis (Illustrations 17.4, 17.5, and 17.12). Both his name (Chnoubis, Chnoumis) and sign, a triple crossed S, are regularly found engraved on the gems. The ‘Chnoubis’ gems transformed a minor figure of Egyptian astrology, belonging to one of the 36 Egyptian decans, into an important solar deity understood in different cultures of the Roman period.61 His power is chiefly used for digestive problems (see below, p. 000).62 Chnoubis appears on three classes of gems, which differ in their material, colour, shape, and size. The first class associates the image of the radiate lion-headed serpent, the name Chnoubis, at times spelled as Chnoumis, and the Chnoubis-sign made of a crossed triple S. These gems were made of transparent green stones, such as chrysoprase, lentoid ovals with two convex faces, approximately 20 mm in length (Illustration 17.4). The chief constituent of the second class is simply the Chnoubis sign, sometimes complemented with the name. These are engraved on stones of a similar shape, also transparent, but smaller (ca. 10 mm) and white in colour, such as chalcedony (Illustration 17.5). In the third class, Chnoubis appears on uterus gems as one of the deities protecting the womb. These stones are black (haematite), flat on both faces, between 15–25 mm, and are inscribed with a vox (orôriouth) and logos (soroor-) characteristic of uterus-gems (Illustrations 17.11 and 17.12).
Ritual experts thus incorporated the newest religious concepts on gems, a medium that favored the invention of iconographic schemes.63

61 For an overview of Rabbinic sources mentioning the Chnoubis-scheme, M. Schlüter, Derāqôn und Götzendienst. Studien, ausgehend von mAZ II 3 (Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 1982).
62 With earlier bibliography, Dasen and Nagy, “ Le serpent léontocéphale Chnoubis.” The most detailed analysis: J.F. Quack, Beiträge zu den ägyptischen Dekanen und ihrer Rezeption in der griechisch-römischen Welt, Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, in press. We would hereby like to thank the author for providing us with access to the relevant parts of his manuscript. Ca. 400 gems are today recorded with the Chnoubis snake.
63 Michel, Die magischen Gemmen im Britischen Museum, 283–284, no 457; J. Spier, Late Antique and Early Christian Gems (Wiesbaden: Reichert, 2007), 73, no 443 (= CBd-815). On this piece and the issue in general, see J. Engemann, “The Argument from Silence. Iconographic Statements of 1981 on Faked Gems Reconsidered,” in ‘Gems of Heaven’, 208–213. The earliest pictorial representations of the Crucifixion appear on magical gems too: see F. Harley-McGowan, “The Constanza Carnelian and the Development of Crucifixion Iconography in Late Antiquity,” in ‘Gems of Heaven’, 214–20, and Roy D. Kotansky, The Magic ‘Crucifixion Gem’ in the British Museum, grbs 57 (2017): 631–659.

Agathodaimon came to/in Alexander's mother, according to well-known Greek history-myth: his father was the chthonic (Semite-?) Hellenistic Serpent God Zeus Meilichios =Zeus Ammon/Baal Hammon/Agathodaimon:

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