Egypt, Israel, and the Ancient Mediterranean World: Studies in Honor of Donald B. Redford

By Gary N. Knoppers; Antoine Hirsch | Go to book overview

SOME NOTES ON BIBLICAL AND
EGYPTIAN THEOLOGY

John Strange

A good part of Donald Redford's work has been dedicated to investigate the interrelationship between Egypt and the Levant, already in his penetrating work A Study of the Biblical Story of Joseph (Genesis 37–50) from 1970 and culminating in his major book Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times from 1992 in which a synthesis of the extant information is given to us. Here he has with erudition and imagination done a great service to all of us, especially to people with only a limited knowledge of the Egyptian language and the Egyptian historical sources, by showing, how intense these interrelations really were. One of the areas dealt with in his book has—of course because of its importance for Christian theology and European culture—been investigated before, die impact of Egyptian thought on the Bible.1 The following notes are a modest contribution to understand how profoundly Egyptian theology,2 especially creation tiieology, has influenced Jewish and Christian theology. They are not intended to be an exhaustive treatment of the subject. Only a few examples will be given and a point or two raised.

Perhaps it would be appropriate first to make an assessment of which periods Egyptian influence on Canaanite, Israelite, Jewish and Christian religion is most likely to have been active in the history of the ancient Near East. This influence may have been direct such as a demonstrable loan from Egyptian texts into Biblical texts, a piece of Egyptian wisdom literature incorporated into a Biblical text; but it may also be indirect, an Egyptian motif in religious iconography taken over in Canaan in pre-Israelite periods and then later in the Bible. Here one should also be aware that we must assume a common ancient

1 A good overview of this is found in Williams 1971.

2 I use the word theology in contrast to mythology, because I wish to emphasize
that Egyptian thought is in many respects a direct forerunner of biblical and Chris-
tian theology, and not a kind of myth making, which may be dismissed as having no
interest for others than Egyptologists and students of the history of religion. Egyptian
theology is, in my belief from a Christian point of view, natural religion which is
again, after a long eclipse under the influence of Karl Barth and his followers, being
considered legitimate and respectable, see, Barr 1994; 1999:468–96.

-345-

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