Friday, December 25, 2009

Egypt in the Christmas Narrative

The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt." (Matthew 2:13)

The Apostles, who knew Jesus' mother well, bore witness to the Virgin birth of Jesus Christ, so when people reject the virgin birth, they are calling the Apostles liars. They are rejecting the most fundamental belief of Christianity: that the Son of God came into the world to save sinners, to crush the head of the serpent, and to restore Paradise, according to the Edenic Promise (Gen. 3:15)

The Virgin Birth is one of many signs that the One born to Mary is the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah. This is not about the birth of the Sun at the winter solstice. This is not a reworking of the Egyptian tale of Isis, a fertility goddess. Rather, the Horite Hebrew priests of Egypt told a story about a divinely appointed woman, Hathor, who was the mother of Horus. The Ra-Horus-Hathor narrative provides the pattern that points to Jesus Messiah. It points us to the Virgin who gave birth to the true Son of God under humble circumstances.

In the Horus story, Hathor gives birth in a cave. The hill country of Bethlehem ihas many caves where the residents kept their livestock. Messiah was born in one of these caves. This is why Orthodoxy icons of the Nativity show the Theotokos with the infant Christ in a cave.

Miraculous or extraordinary births abound in ancient societies, such as Athena's birth from Zeus's forehead. But the birth of Jesus is unlike these in significant ways. As Scripture attests: He was not begotten by the will of man. He is the eternal Christ, begotten before all worlds, and his coming was foretold long before there were Mesopotamians, Greeks, Romans and Egyptians.

The Egyptians, who venerated the Sun as the emblem of the Creator, believed that Horus was born at the Winter Solstice because from that day forward the Sun grows in strength. An ancient Horite ritual involved placing a male baby before the image of Hathor. Gifts were placed before them by the priests. Such correspondences have led some to claim that Christianity is a copycat religion. However, the beliefs of the Horite Hebrew are the source of our Messianic hope. Christianity has deep roots in antiquity. It is not an invention. Christ is the true Form of which the Hathor-Horus myth is a dim, but prophetic reflection. "And he became flesh and dwelt among us - Emmanuel - God with us!"

Through many generations, Abraham's Horite people expected the Edenic Promise to be fulfilled. The Horites were devotees of Horus, who they called the "Son of God."  If we believe Genesis is the record of Abraham's ancestors, then we must also accept that it was to Abraham's ancestors that the original promise (Protevangelion/Proto-Gospel) of the Son's birth was made.  This also explains why the priestly lines of Abraham's people exclusively intermarried.  They actually believed that the "Seed of a Woman" (Gen. 3:15) would come from their bloodlines.

Descent without a male parent is prefigured in Genesis 3:15 where the promise is given of One who will destroy the cosmic serpent and restore perfect communion between God and Man. The promise involves the woman's seed, not the man’s, and the promise involves “the woman,” not Eve. Gen 3:15 looks forward to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. And the fulfillment is facilitated by Joseph’s obedience to God and his faithfulness to Mary. Not only did he refuse to put her to shame, “but he knew her not.” The words are a euphemism, expressing the conjugal act, and reflect on the union of First Man and First Woman in Gen. 4:1.

Further, Joseph listened and believed the angel's warning. He took Mary and the Child to safety in Egypt. Egypt isn't always posed as a safe place in Israel's history, but for Abraham's divine Seed, Egypt was a place of refuge, as it was for Abraham and Jacob in a time of famine.  The "angel of the Lord" appeared to Joseph and told him to seek refuge in Egypt. This phrase - "angel of the Lord" - is found in Genesis 16:7 in reference to the Lord (Yahweh) who often makes His intention known in dreams.  This Joseph, like his famous namesake, is a dreamer of dreams.  And he remained in Egypt until the Son of God was called out of Egypt.

The Apostles believed that the return of Jesus from Egypt fulfills the prophesy of  Hosea 11:1: "I called my son out of Egypt."  Jews  insist that this refers to Israel as a people, and certainly that is the context of the Hosea passage.  Matthew's Gospel says:  So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod was dead. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet:  "I called my son out of Egypt."  (Matthew 2:15)

All of Holy Scripture points us to the Promised Son who restores the divine image and opens the way to Paradise. May you embrace this great miracle during these twelve days of Christmas. I wish you a blessed Nativity with family and friends. And for those who are alone this Christmas, may God send angels to abide with you.

Related reading: The Nazareth-Egypt Connection; Egypt in the Book of Genesis; The Virgin Birth and Manger Too!; Christians Are Christmas People


Anonymous said...

Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Thank you.

Rob said...

Merry Christmas to you and yours and thank you for sharing your wisdom with all of us during the year. God bless!

Anonymous said...

Ms. Linsley,

You totally rock. If able and not inconvenient please Youtube some of your lectures so we can view, if not copyrighted or otherwise legally restricted.

Best and blessings.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Thanks. : )

That's an interesting suggestion. I'll think about it.

Anonymous said...

Christ is born!
Dear Alice,
You write: "All of Holy Scripture points us to the Promised Son who restores the divine image and opens the way to Paradise."

I just re-read this post and it struck me that if Isis/Horus is an archetype and there are others - then can one extrapolate that all of the old religions point to Christ, even though their revelation of God wasn't the fullness? I think St. Justin Martyr said that they contained a "seed" of the truth...
Am I on the right track?

Alice C. Linsley said...

Yes, Leah, it appears that God has left many signs throughout history that point to the Christ, the Son of God. Those blinded by sin and arrogance manage to miss the signs. The repentant and humble see HIM even in the simple things of life.

Liz said...

Beautiful article, Alice!