https://www.britannica.com/topic/ancien ... -knowledgeThe gods, the king, humanity, and the dead existed together in the cosmos, which the creator god had brought into being from the preexistent chaos. All living beings, except perhaps the creator, would die at the end of time. The sun god became aged and needed to be rejuvenated and reborn daily. The ordered cosmos was surrounded by and shot through with disorder, which had to be kept at bay. Disorder menaced most strongly at such times of transition as the passage from one year to the next or the death of a king. Thus, the king’s role in maintaining order was cosmic and not merely social. His exaction of service from people was necessary to the cosmos.
The concept of maat (“order”) was fundamental in Egyptian thought. The king’s role was to set maat in place of isfet (“disorder”). Maat was crucial in human life and embraced notions of reciprocity, justice, truth, and moderation. Maat was personified as a goddess and the creator’s daughter and received a cult of her own. In the cult of other deities, the king’s offering of maat to a deity encapsulated the relationship between humanity, the king, and the gods; as the representative of humanity, he returned to the gods the order that came from them and of which they were themselves part. Maat extended into the world of the dead: in the weighing of the heart after death, shown on papyri deposited in burials, the person’s heart occupies one side of the scales and a representation of maat the other. The meaning of this image is deepened in the accompanying text, which asserts that the deceased behaved correctly on earth and did not overstep the boundaries of order, declaring that he or she did not “know that which is not”—that is, things that were outside the created and ordered world.
Let us also consider the eating of the wheat wafer as consumption of the body of Osiris, which makes perfect sense in terms of Egyptian mythology, but much less sense within the concept of the Eucharist.
People have often tried to link Egyptian mythology to Christian origins. Famously, relating Horus to Christ. This has been thoroughly debunked, and yet, isn't it obvious that plain Egyptian religion is a locus for the main ideas within Christian theology? Counterarguments refer to major differences, citing also Jewish prophecy. It seems the problem has more to do with a failure of historical analysis, rather than the unlikelihood of a link between Egyptian beliefs and later Christian.
I have hypothesized that the House of Onias, in Egypt, is the same as the House of Boethus who later become High Priests in Jerusalem. The Oniad temple is built during the reign of Ptolemy Philometer, seemingly a reaction to failing relations between Judea and Egypt. In first century Judean history, there are dozens of references to Egyptian magic, Egyptian prophets and Egyptian false teachings. It almost becomes an epithet in and of itself for basic heresy.
I have linked Simonianism to Simon Boethus or perhaps Simon Cantheras as a candidate for Simon Magus. Magus as in Egyptian magic. Simonianism is not directly genealogically derived from Oniad teachings, but rather is a branch resulting from the collapse of the James cult, which itself had subsumed elements of certain Boethusian teachings - at least as poor Samaritans might have understood them.
I would propose that Oniads had adopted major elements of Egyptian religion into their inner mysteries. Even within Kabbalah we have Adam Kadmon, who seems to be derived from Heliopolitan Atum. When linking these motifs to the Simonian, we have an idea of the Boethusian High Priest as a Jewish analogue to Pharaoh.
Consider the quoted encyclopedia text above:
Consider a Jewish interpretation, where the High Priest of the temple is thought to fulfill this role, rather than the Egyptian Pharaoh. Now consider an interpretation of the temple practice in Jerusalem.Thus, the king’s role in maintaining order was cosmic and not merely social. His exaction of service from people was necessary to the cosmos.
The concept of maat (“order”) was fundamental in Egyptian thought. The king’s role was to set maat in place of isfet (“disorder”). Maat was crucial in human life and embraced notions of reciprocity, justice, truth, and moderation. Maat was personified as a goddess and the creator’s daughter and received a cult of her own. In the cult of other deities, the king’s offering of maat to a deity encapsulated the relationship between humanity, the king, and the gods; as the representative of humanity, he returned to the gods the order that came from them and of which they were themselves part.
While it's possible that the priestly aristocracy of Jerusalem is well aware that its ancient, esoteric tradition is very similar to the Egyptian conception, the exoteric role of the temple was much plainer. Yahweh protects Israel from harm. Israel earns that protection through following Yahweh's law. The temple is a stopgap. The burnt offering is made to seek forgiveness of sin, both for the sake of the nation so that it may continue to have Yahweh's protection, but also personally or for families.
The ancient, esoteric tradition is modernized. The temple is a system meant to shore up devotion to the law. If you compare the mysticism and cosmic order of the Egyptian tradition to the legalistic and rational order of the Mosaic (perhaps we could say Hellenistic) tradition, then you can see a stark difference.
I would argue that when Herod brought Simon Boethus to Jerusalem, it introduced a profoundly different conception of the temple. One which might have resonated in the far quarters, and among scorned groups. The argument that the cosmos was out of balance, leading to chaos, would certainly be compelling. The Enochian literature happily commits to an astrological interpretation of the ills of the Jerusalem priests.
Nevertheless, whatever the historical details are, in the James tradition we have all the Egyptian elements. A pillar of the world, a high priest who will restore order to the cosmos.
Previously, I proposed that the Davidic Messiah was an invention of the Hasmoneans taken up in full during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus. The concept was nothing more or less than to interpret the prophesied Davidic King as a Jewish Alexander. A world conqueror who would Judaize the world as Alexander had Hellenized it. A son of Yahweh as Alexander was son of Zeus-Hammon. Each interpreted as a universal deity.
I would like to suggest that the Jewish Alexander concept is not compatible with the Judeo-Egyptian High Priest concept. Jewish Alexander lacks Ma'at. He does not answer to a cosmic, spiritual imbalance. Rather, only a worldly, political imbalance. Jewish Alexander is Mosaic. He will establish the law, and through just rule in advancing the law, preserve for the world Yahweh's blessing.
Ma'at is a higher order of spiritual justice. It is truth itself. It comes to Pharaoh via special gnosis.
Therefore, in interpreting Jewish sectarian differences in the first century, I propose this hypothesis:
- The concept of Jewish Alexander (Davidic Messiah) emerges.
- The Judeo-Egyptian High Priest is introduced.
- The Judeo-Egyptian High Priest concept serves as a rebuttal to the Jewish Alexander, highlighting its major flaws (lack of gnosis and purity).
- The Jewish Alexander concept, its Alexander having failed (no more Jewish kings), is modified in rebuttal to the Judeo-Egyptian High Priest concept.
I have previously posted on Philo's words to Gaius, discussing his illness, and highlighting the importance of the Emperor's physical health to the political and even spiritual health of the Empire. I think this motif can be applied to Jewish Alexander. If we conceive of the spiritual High Priest as guardian of Ma'at, and see his role as a force for healing, then the earthly ruler - even if non-Jewish - becomes a vessel for cosmic order. Philosophy - rather than either law or spiritual purity - becomes the agent of Ma'at in the world. If this is true, then we would see a shift concerning the idea of gnosis.
At first, gnosis would be esoteric, the product of ritual purity, devotion, and perhaps position or bloodline. Afterwards, gnosis takes on a philosophical character. It can be studied and contemplated.
I would suggest that perhaps the Cyrenian Jews, who are major players in the Silphium trade, and would therefore have connections to the Asclepius cult of Balagrae, played a role in invoking Asclepian motifs in order to transform the Judeo-Egyptian High Priest concept into something which is compatible with Jewish Alexander.
The idea is the Heavenly High Priest is constant, and his healing Ma'at supports the reigns of the great leaders. That Cyrus, Alexander and Vespasian all have Ma'at through Asclepius-as-Yehoshua. This is almost precisely the concept of the Byzantine emperor whose divine right comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit (in this case, we can directly equate Ma'at with the Holy Ghost).
I assume the Jewish Alexander concept permits the rule of these gentile kings, while still anticipating an eventual Jewish world emperor. This may explain why early Christianity was more compatible with Judaism until Bar Kokhba. When the Jewish Alexander, Pauline cult failed to support Kokhba, the Pharisees broke from the idea utterly, and so the Christians in turn broke from the Jews.
The Cyrenean Jews, in contrast to Qumranites or Jamesians, were consistently loyal to Jerusalem. They could reasonably be the provenance of the Jewish Alexander concept, derived from their knowledge of the Alexander cult at Siwa. Rather than present it as an alternative to orthodox Judaism, they would present it as consistent with and integral to it. A useful veneer. Similarly, their familiarity with the Asclepius cult would lead to their use of its motifs not as alternatives to orthodox Jewish belief, but as complementary motifs.
The Ascelpian Yehoshua seems to be a way to answer the Jamesians, to rebut them, while simultaneously making room for Philonic and gnostic teachings. To preserve the legitimacy of Alexander the Great as a prophesied king, blessed by Yahweh, so that the day may come when his Jewish alternative can emerge.