Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Victory of God's Order Over Chaos

Dr. Zahi Hawass with statues, one of which is an image of Horus as a child wearing a sidelock.

Alice C. Linsley

I recently received an email from a Japanese friend in which she details some of the horrors and hardships endured by many Japanese in the aftermath of natural disasters.  She wrote: "In my country, fear of earthquakes always haunts us. We don't know when it gonna hit us and kill us. As a small child, I remember nights I could not sleep because of the fear of death by earthquake. I grew up with fear. However, because I encountered with Christ, I am no longer haunted by fear of death anymore. It is the unchanging truth, but it is quite scary when it happens. I lost words when I saw cars and houses carried away by water and drown in it as weapons to steal so many lives. I thought hell would be a place like this."

Hell is probably very like this, a chaotic state without hope of the victorious order that comes with God's Presence. According to Genesis 1, such chaos was overcome by God's Word in the beginning. The Genesis 1 and 2 accounts speak of water in a chaotic state and water that sustains life.

In the Genesis 1 creation account, the earth was chaotic. Darkness was on "deep" until the Spirit moved over waters (1:1-2).

Similarly, in Genesis 2, we read "In the day when the Lord-God made the earth and the heavens . . ." (2:4) there was nothing on earth (2:5) until a mist or water rose from the ground and watered all the surface of the ground.

In Genesis 1 we have an account similar to the ancient Nilotic belief of Tehom (Hebrew: תְּהוֹם‎), a watery and disordered deep which God put in order by His Word (Egyptian word "hu" or hut). The Tehom is subdued by the divine Tehut.

In the early Nilotic account of creation (before Egypt emerged as a political entity) the creation began when a mound or pillar of dry land emerged from the primordial sea. Here the first life form was seen as a lily, growing on the peak of the mound. The mound was called Tatjenen, meaning "the emerging land".

The victory of Tehut over Tehom relates to the annual inundation of the Nile and helps us to understand the Egyptian concept of creation. As rains fell in the Ethiopian headlands the Nile River rose above its banks, flooding the Nile Valley between June and October. The flooding lasted for 40 days. As the waters receded, only the highest mounds of earth would been seen at first. Even after the waters crested and began to recede, families did not return to their homes for another 40 nights. This is the origin of the biblical phrase "forty days and forty nights", and the context is Nilotic.

One of the oldest creation myths of the ancient Egyptians envisioned the first place in the world as a mound emerging from the waters of a universal ocean. In Hindu and Buddhist mythology the mound that emerged is called Mount Meru. It emerges from the center of the Cosmic Ocean, and the Sun and 7 visible planets circle the mountain. Mount Meru in Hinduism is a mythological mountain. 

The name meru is meri in Egyptian and is related to the ancient Egyptian word for love - mer.  The name Mary or Miriam is related to that same root - MR. The Virgin Mary, whose womb swelled with the Son of God, is portrayed in some icons as the mountain of God. The Prophet Daniel saw a mountain, from which a stone was cut by the hand of God (Dan. 2:34, 45). Doubtless this is what Malachi alluded to when he wrote, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise [swell/be magnified] with healing in its wings.” 

This conception of Earth emerging from a universal ocean likely originated in the Nile Valley where stone pillars called benben were erected. The term is from the root, bn, meaning to "swell forth". The Egyptian word for the rising sun is wbn, which comes from the same root as benben. The benben were a solar symbol. In his book, Mountains of the Pharaohs, Dr. Zahi Hawass states that the benben was the "solar symbol par excellence, thought to have existed in reality as an object, perhaps a stone with a rounded top..." (p. 34)

Hawass believes that this artifact was kept in the main temple at Heliopolis (biblical On) where the sun was the symbol of the High God Ra. Ra's son was called HR, meaning Most High One. The Greeks called Ra's son Horus. The Horite Hebrew priests who served at the main temple in Heliopolis were devotees of Ra, Horus, and Hathor. Heliopolis is mentioned multiple times in the Old Testament. Isaiah 19:18 says that Heliopolis was one of the five cities in Egypt that swore allegiance to the Lord of Hosts.

Recently discovered tombs of officials from the 4th Dynasty were surmounted by conical mounds that represent the benben. These tombs, along with the royal tombs at Giza, indicate that the ancient rulers hoped to rise from the place of death just as the sun rises daily in the east and sets in the west. The solar arc and the hope of resurrection were linked in ancient Nilotic thought.

Related reading: The Prestige of Biblical OnEarly Resurrection TextsThe Nilotic Substrata of Genesis 1Funerary Rites and the Hope of Resurrection; Righteous Rulers and the Resurrection; Solar Symbolism of the Proto-Gospel

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ms. Linsley, the last three paragraphs provide a lot to ponder. Best, Brent