« PreviousContinue »
Jews and their laws must have been objects of very general attention in Egypt, since Philo relates, that in his time they amounted to a hundred myriads, or one million, and they probably had a full council, or great synagogue in that country *
The Egyptians themselves from the earliest times could not but be awfully impressed with the religious communications imparted to the Israelites, and with the miraculous sanctions by which those communications were confirmed; a considerable aversion, however, was entertained by the Egyptians against the Jews, excited probably by the great difference subsisting between them on the subject of religion of
Events of the Jewish bistory, even from the most remote times, were not only reported amongst the Egyptians by tradition, but were recorded, it should seem, in their public annals, as for instance, it was related in the books of the priests that an Egyptian was killed by the words of Moses : not to mention that the early writers, who treat
* See in Flacc. p. 971. + Joseph. cont. Apion, lib. i. § 25. Tacit. Hist. lib. v. c. 5.
Clem. Alex. Strom. lib. i. p. 413. Edit. Potter. Euseb. Præp. Evang. lib. ix. c. 27.
of their history and religion, notice particulars with respect to the contest of the giants with the gods, and other particulars, which bear a relation to events mentioned in Scripture.
The accounts also which are abridged by Justin from Troqus Pompeius, concerning Joseph and Moses, in which truth and falsehood are mixed together, were probably derived by the original writer from the Egyptian priests *
* See Justin. lib. xxxvi. c. 2. p. 580. Edit. Wetsten,
One of the first, if not the first of the distinguished writers among the Egyptians, and to whom they attributed their earliest discoveries in the sciences, was Hermes, a legislator, poet, and philosopher, who is reported to have lived before the time of Moses, and who seems by some to have been confounded with Joseph or Enoch ; while by others it is maintained, that Moses himself * is denoted by that name. He is styled Trismegistus in allusion, probably, to his eminent attainments, though Suidas represents him to have procured that title from the reputation which he acquired by promulgating some doctrines concerning the divine nature and the Trinity. Some have imagined, that he or an earlier Hermes was deified as the Egyptian Mercury. It is related by Sanchoniatho, that he was an as
* Kircher, tom.i.
dip. Egypt, p. 67.79. 114.
sistant of Cronus, whom Cumberland maintains to have been flam, he is sometimes described as a contemporary of Osiris, whom the same learned writer supposes to have been Misraim *, and is said to have composed many works on theology, two of which, containing hymns and precepts of elevated instruction, were carried in religious processions in Egypt, from which Sanchoniatho and Manetho borrowed much relating to the first creation of the world .
From the various accounts which may be collected of him and his writings, we may conclude, that he had some acquaintance with the principles of the patriarchal theology.
In the cosmogony which is ascribed to him, an unbounded darkness is said to have extended over the abyss of water, and an ætherial Spirit to have blowed with a divine power over the chaos ; and further it is stated that holy light was diffused, and the elements raised from a moist sandy substance, while the gods distributed the seminal principles of things.
The productions which are ascribed to
* Cumberland's Remarks, 1st and 2nd. + Clem, Alex. Strom. lib. vi. p. 757.
Ilermes contain possibly some remains of bis writings, mingled with spurious additions of later times by Platonic or Christian writers *. He speaks of one Supreme Deity t, as the light and life. Lactantius refers to a work of this description, entitled Pæmander, with design to shew, that Ilermes was not ignorant that men were inade by God, and in his similitude.
Lactantius refers also to a passage of this or some other work, in which termes describes man as forined of two natures, a mortal and an immortal part, bearing an intermediate character between a divine and immortal nature, and a mortal and changeable one, that seeing all things he might admire all things
The same urter las preserved some passages from other productions attributed to llermes, one of which is entitled a Perfect Discourse, or the Asclepian Dialogue S. Among these is a sentence which states, that
* See Edit. licin. Venet. 1185. et ap. Aldum. 15,52. See Fabric. Biblioth. Crac.
+ Cyprian de Idol. Van, vol. i. and Curiworth's Intellectual System, Book i. c. 4. p. 332. Edit. 1678.
# De Vit. Beat. lib. vii. $ 4. p. 658, voli. See also Lact. de Origin. Error, lil). ii. $ 10. p. 198-9.
s De Vit. Beat lib. vii. s 13.