Prince of Egypt vs. Exodus

51CTZ2EYQJLDreamWorks’s Prince of Egypt was released in theaters in 1998, a movie based on the Exodus Bible story of Moses. Moses leading his people out of Egypt was probably the most important story in the Old Testament of the Bible; a story when the Jews realized who they were and understood the God they were following. This movie fairly accurate depicts the Exodus story in the bible, but has subtle differences.

One of the first major changes the movie made from the Scripture was that Seti’s wife, not the daughter of the pharaoh like in the bible,

Seth's wife finding Moses in the basket
Seti’s wife finding Moses in the basket

pulled Moses from the basket. But as a matter of fact, it wouldn’t have been that weird if Pharaoh were actually married to his daughter. In class, we focused on one of the most famous female Pharaoh’s of Ancient Egypt- Hatshepsut. And she indeed was actually married to her half-brother, so it was not uncommon for people to marry within families.

The oppression of the Jews in Egypt is a significant part of the story. The movie does a great job depicting the harsh ways the slaves were treated. In Exodus 1:13-14, the Bible reads, “So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor. And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage— in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor.” The movie shows scenes of slaves, old and young, being worked to the bone and constantly being whipped. When Moses was a royal

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This is a scene of the slaves in the Prince of Egypt

in the beginning of the movie, he did not seem to care about the slaves’ freedom or the way they were treated. This all changed when Moses learned he was Hebrew and started following God. Moses delivering the children of Israel from Egypt is one of the most prominent examples of God supporting the slaves and their freedom and is often compared to when black people were in slavery. In an article we read in class, Cone writes, “Just as God delivered the Children of Israel from Egyptian slavery, drowning Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, he will also deliver black people from American slavery”. The slavery shown in the movie, and written in Exodus, gave these people faith in God that he will also free them like he freed the Egyptians with Moses. This story was a driving force in many people’s faith to escape from slavery.

The movie also portrayed how Moses killed the slave in the movie than from the Bible differently. In the movie, it was shown as an accident, while as in Exodus, it was something he did purposely.  In Exodus 2:11-14, Moses feels angry that someone is smiting one of his own (a Hebrew), but he is also afraid of the consequences and even ashamed. After he kills the Egyptian, he even hides his body so no one will find out. Once confronted about it, he flees and then “finds himself”. In the bible, we see conflicted feelings from Moses-that he wants to defend his people, but he is also ashamed by it. In the movie, he willingly flees after killing the taskmaster accidentally. The movie shows Moses’ guilt of him killing someone and having conflicted feelings, but not really anything to be ashamed of.

Not only was the Hebrew God mentioned in the movie, but the royals gods, the religion of the Pharaoh, also played a role in the movie. Ramses’ priests put on a little show about their Gods during Moses’ first visit with Pharaoh requesting that he let his people go. The way DreamWorks depicted the royals’

Moses parting the Red Sea
Moses parting the Red Sea

religion almost made it seem like a joke. The priests were not taken seriously and it was evident that they themselves did not believe in these gods. Putting on the show for everyone and the Pharaoh was more important. When Moses turned the sea into blood, Ramses asked his priests to prove to him that their gods did the same thing as Moses’s God. So the priests took a bowl of water and instead of trusting their gods to turn that water into blood, they splashed some of the Red Sea’s blood into the bowl. Their religion was clearly something they only viewed as a job to Pharaoh since they did not even have faith in their god to perform this miracle.

This movie did an overall excellent job of portraying the Exodus story of Moses. It is evident that the creators of the film put in the effort to make this fairly historically accurate and it was enjoyable to watch.

Rosicrucian Museum Trip

Last Saturday, my Religion of the Pharaohs class took a field trip to the Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose. Unfortunately the museum was closed, but the Rosicrucian had a lot of things to offer outside of the museum walls too. We took a tour of the grounds and saw several different Egyptian paintings, temples, pools, and objects all around the museum.

One of the things we saw was the obelisk, something that looks like a tall white tower with writing on itIMG_7098. The Obelisk represents petrified rays of the sun. The rays start from heaven (the top of the obelisk) and shine down to the earth (the bottom). The writing on the walls of the obelisk is for the pharaohs while the cartouches are representations of the sun god Re. Obelisks are usually made of granite and all have the same shape, but the obelisk at the Rosicrucian was not made out of granite. In class, we learned that the obelisks were placed at the front entrance of the temple and that they were a symbol of Re and it’s presence portrayed that a god was in the temple. Actually seeing an Obelisk replica on the museum grounds furthered my understanding of how significant they were to the temples. Seeing it in real life made me imagine how significant they would look lining the entrance of a temple.

I took the picture on the left of the Obelisk at the museum!

There was a hidden entrance on the tour on the side of the museum grounds that had different paintings on the walls. One of them was a picture of the weighing of the heart ceremony; a ceremony for the deceased and their afterlife. IMG_7099During the ceremony, all the organs are removed except for the heart. The heart is put on one side of the scale while the feather of ma’at was on the other. Questions like, “have you ever killed anyone” would be asked and the answer should be no, but if answered yes or lied, the heart would weigh down and tip the scale. The heart “weighs heavy with guilt” and sinks all the way down to the bottom and the deadly god Amut would eat the judged and the soul can’t enter the afterlife. There are some cases people could cheat their way out of this, like when the God Anubis adds some weight to the feather side so it would even out with the heart. This is a significant ceremony and was actually one of the first things we learned in our class at the beginning of the semester. In class we learned that in ancient Egypt, this painting would not be on the entrance of a temple, but just a ceremony that was typically done in a quiet and reflective spot for the deceased (Vida). Egyptians took this ceremony very seriously; it was their gate into the afterlife. It may have been put on the entrance of the museum because it was a “gate” into the museum like the ceremony is a “gate” into the afterlife? Or maybe because that painting tells a very interesting story and it gets people intrigued about ancient Egypt! I took the picture above of the gate.

Overall, the tour was a great experience and it was great that we could apply what we’ve learned in class to the objects and information on the tour!

Magic and Religion- Are They Connected?

Usually the first thing that pops into people’s head when they hear the word “magic” is a magician chanting a spell with some purple, sparkly dust flying around, and then a miracle happening. In the New Kingdom in Ancient Egypt, magic wasn’t that different from that perception- minus the sparkly dust. Magic became an integrated part in ancient Egyptian society in several different forms. It ranged from simple chants and prayers to sending deathly magical objects to kill someone. Surprisingly, religion also ties into magic with several similarities that I will discuss later on. I will use Christianity as my example of religion because it is what I am most familiar with.

Magical Objects

The ancient Egyptians had certain objects that they believed possessed the power of magic and could protect them from certain things. One of those objects is a wand, hippo ivory in the shape of a horn, shown in the picture below.Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 10.19.44 AM When associated with certain spells, the wand is believed to protect a woman and her baby during childbirth. It was to be hovered over the woman to not only protect her, but also ward off evil and demons. Tawareet, the God of fertility, maternity, and children, is often depicted as a hippo. That is why the hippo ivory wand is even more significant; it also embodies the presence of Tawareet.

Scarab550bcAnother popular magical object is an amulet. Amulets were worn as jewelry, such as necklaces, bracelets, or rings. Some amulets have a spell or prayer engraved on them, others had a piece of papyrus with spells or prayers tucked into the amulet. These amulets defended people from a number of different things such as miscarriages, bites from reptiles, accidents while traveling, or even thunderbolts and collapsing walls (Teeter).

To the left is an example of an ancient Egyptian amulet.

Instead of amulets, a lot of Christians wear a cross as jewelry for several better crossdifferent reasons. I wear it because I feel like God’s presence is with me. Yes, I know that God is always with me, but it makes me feel like I have some sort of extra protection through him when I wear it, as if it will stops me from doing something sinful or maybe help me when I’m taking an exam. In addition, there is also jewelry that has inscriptions of prayers, saints, or bible verses similarly that the amulets may have a prayer or spell on them. So in our own ways, the ancient Egyptians and Christians now wear those kinds of jewelry for similar reasons- to feel the protection and presence of our God.

Spells & Hymns

Ancient Egyptians used spells as means of direct communication with their deity. Spells were used to ask a god for protection, help with a decision, spells for the dead, spells to be loved, and many more. An example spell is the “Spell for Causing the Beloved to Follow After” from the book Ancient Egyptian Literature. This spell is about a mother who wants so desperately for her daughter to love her. In the spell, she prays to Re, the father of all gods, and the seven Hathors, and all the gods of heaven and earth. She asks that her daughter “pursue her with undying passion” (Foster) and threatens that if she doesn’t love her, she will “abandon the sky consumed to dust in the fire of my burning” (Foster). It seems like prayer and spells were the first thing that the Ancient Egyptians went to, instead of verbally communicating with the person they are praying about. These types of spells show how close the Ancient Egyptians were to the gods and that they went to them for a variety of different problems.

In Simpson’s book, there are examples of Penitential Hymns that were carved during the reign of Ramses II. In the Stela of Neferabu (British Museum 589), the first 10 lines of the stela proceed to worship the almighty Ptah, Lord of Maat. The stela then starts to become about a man who mistakingly swore falsely by Ptah and how he was punished for it. He said, “Avoid uttering Ptah’s name falsely. Lo, he who utters it falsely; lo, he falls down. He caused me to be like the street dogs.” This hymn really shows how everyday people respected the gods, especially out of fear. This man has clearly been punished by Ptah for falsely saying his name and he had learned his lesson and is now warning others to not make the same mistake. This explains why he was praising Ptah in the first half of the hymn; he was doing it out of fear and to make up for his mistake. In the end, he asks for the god’s mercy, showing that the Egyptian gods were not just only capable of punishment, but also mercy. pic

An example of an Ancient Egyptian Spell

Christians don’t have spells, but we do have prayers and hymns. In Ancient Christian Magic, there is a spell about a healing amulet for women. The majority of the spell is praising Jesus and the miracles he’s done and asking for Jesus to “heal a handmaid who wears your holy name” and use a divine amulet to heal her. Similarly how the Ancient Egyptians cast a spell for Tawareet to protect a mother during birth, these Ancient Christians asked Jesus to heal a woman. For modern day Coptics, we chant the Thanksgiving Prayer at the beginning of every hour, thanking God for protecting us and “to guard us in all peace this holy day and all the days of our life” (Agpeya). Although we are not using this for magic purposes like the Ancient Egyptians, we are asking for the protection, guidance, and decision making from our God, but in different forms.

In conclusion, magic and religion tied in together in more ways than I thought. Although they may seem like they are opposites of each other, I learned several similarities that they have with each other.

Religion and Politics

Religion and Politics

In today’s contemporary society, there is big line that excludes religion out of government and politics. The first amendment clearly separates church and state from each other; thus people in America take the saying of “separation of church and state” very seriously. We live in a pluralistic society where people believe in hundreds of different religions and it’s difficult to take those into account in politics as a whole; people simply reject the idea of religion and politics being integrated. But in Ancient Egypt, it was the exact opposite. Religion played a huge role in their politics and government. There was not one without the other; they went hand in hand together. Religion was one of the most dominant social force in Egypt and it basically affected everything in their society. According to Teeter, “One could easily argue that there was no “secular” realm in Egypt because all aspects of the society and culture were outgrowths of religion”.

What kind of a religious society was Ancient Egypt?

In the old kingdom, Ancient Egypt had a polytheistic theocracy, meaning they worshiped more than one God. In the Memphite Theology article from the Civilizations of the Near East, the god Ptah is recognized as creator of all gods and the creator god of Memphis. He was also known to be the father of Atum and the other nine major gods such as Osiris, Anubis, and Horus. The Egyptians believed in a couple different creation stories, such as one where they believe Re is the god of all gods; it’s kind of in the sense that the creator of gods can be recognized as Re, Amun, or Ptah. Overall, the ancient Egyptians worshipped these gods and built some of their society off of them. The pharaoh was actually believed to to be incarnations of the sun god Horus, so they were highly worshipped.

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The god Osiris, Anubis, and Horus from left to right. Picture taken from this.

What did religion have to do with the government and social institutions? (Schroeder study guide)

Religion was important to everyone. This includes everyone running the government as well, so there was a lot help and money that went from the government to anything related to religion. According to the Legal and Social Institutions of Pharaonic Egypt article we read in class, kings granted tax exemptions to temples and any royal patronage. The government also aided and encouraged the building of cult statues and sponsored the building of temples.

Temples

Temples were the dominant feature on every landscape in Ancient Egypt. Any big town or any town that was labeled prestigious definitely had many temples. These temples were perceived to be homes of the gods and goddesses and were made for the community to worship these gods and goddesses.

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New Kingdom Temple of Abu Simbel, taken from Professor Caroline Schroeder’s lecture

Art and Architecture

Art and architecture were considered to be “outgrowths of religions”. According to Teeter, in Ancient Egypt, art was completely intertwined with religion. All paintings, statues, jewelry, sculptures, and art engraved in buildings served some sort of religious purpose. To the Ancient Egyptians, the sculptures and statues they built was an actual representation of that thing they were creating. So if they built a statue of a deceased person, it could potentially have the spirit of that person in the statue, so it’s like a piece of them is still there. They believed that a deceased person wouldn’t be able to live in the afterlife unless they had his/her image persevered in the some sort of art like a statue or sculpture.

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This is an example of Egyptian art in the age of the pyramids. This is a statue of ankh seated with clasped hands .

Writing

The Ancient Egyptians believed that writing was a gift given to them by the gods. Teeter explains that the hieroglyphic script was referred to as medjet netcher, meaning “words of the god”. Writing had a big religious effect, by writing about something or someone was basically calling that thing or person into existence. Similar to the art, they are counter-images of the thing they represented.

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An example of hieroglyph writing from this source.

The King/Pharaoh

According to the article we read for class, “the kings as policymakers and royal administration as policy makers bore the responsibility for the function of the government”. Not only did they govern all the policies, they also had the responsibility to patronize the temples. According to Teeter, the king was considered a semi divine ruler – the incarnation of the living Horus, the son of Osiris (Memphite Theology). There were actually very few codified laws because the pharaoh was considered so divine and holy that all laws just emanated from him. Because he was viewed as a god, no one could question his authority or ruling. Because of the king’s divinity, it was he, not the priest, that was pictured on temple walls performing rituals (article).

Priesthood

Priesthood was another position that heavily influenced religion in daily life. According to our lecture in class, the pharaoh either appointed priests or they were just born into it. Priests controlled all land attached to temples and the treasures associated with the temples; basically anything that had to do with a temple was controlled by a priest. Priests were pretty high up in the social pyramid in Egypt, they were considered to have higher standing than the local nobility.

As you can see, almost every aspect of society was influenced be religion in one way or another. Because everything was influenced by one source (religion), it probably brought society as a whole closer together. Down to the core, everything was united by religion, creating “one of the most theocratic societies in history” (Teeter).