Rachel’s Thoughts: Another Paper

The Egyptian deities were essentially equivalent to the Greek and Roman gods, and the ideas represented by these gods were remarkably like those behind the Hebrew God. Were the Egyptians and other nations attempting to worship a Creator similar to the Hebrew one, and merely going about it in a different way? I would argue that they were.

There were twelve principal Egyptian gods and goddesses, who correspond almost perfectly to the Greek gods, with only three exceptions[1]. The Egyptian god Sebek was supposedly the god who first separated the waters and created earth, corresponding to the Greek Kronos. Amun was similar to Zeus, as the chief deity in Egyptian culture[2]. Hathor, the Egyptian goddess of love, motherhood, and fertility, corresponded to Aphrodite, while Isis was connected to Hera as goddesses of general marital happiness. Ra seemed to be Helios, Greek god of the sun as the planet itself[3], and Horus, the god of the sun[4], was remarkably similar to the Greek Apollo[5]. The Egyptian Bes was a rather less-known character, similar to both Dionysus and to the goddess Hestia, who, in Greek mythology, is closely connected to Dionysus. Khnum was quite clearly Poseidon, both being gods of the water, alternately the Nile River or the seas, while Osiris, as god of the underworld, corresponded to Hades[6]. The Egyptian Thoth seemed to be nearly identical to the Greek messenger god, Hermes—Hermes and Thoth also might have been taken from the Biblical messengers, Gabriel and Michael. Anubis also corresponded to Hades, as he also was god of the underworld. However, since Anubis was pictured with the head of a dog, another possible theory is that he corresponded to Cerberus (the three-headed guard dog of the underworld).

Last, but certainly not least, is the god Aten. Aten is the sun god, but is different from Horus and Ra insomuch as Aten is not so much the physical deity of the object, but the representation of the object itself. Aten is drawn as a sphere, not as a god. He is the most unique of the Egyptian gods because he is the only one recorded as having been worshipped alone.

In roughly 1352 BC, Pharaoh Akhenaten attempted to make Egypt monotheistic. It is notable that Akhenaten began his worship of Aten shortly after the Hebrew Exodus, which suggests that he thought the monotheism of that nation was a good idea. I believe he picked the sun to worship because it was, to an observer, the source of most of the natural good (crops, produce, grains, etc.) on the earth.

In G.A. Henty’s book The Cat of Bubastes[7], he presents the idea that the Egyptian gods were attributes of a single God.

Looking at the operations of nature…he concluded, and rightly, that there was a God over all things, but that this God was too mighty for his imagination to grasp…He was too infinite and too various for the untutored mind of the early man to comprehend, and so they tried to approach him piecemeal…and so in time they came to regard all these attributes of his…as being distinct and different, and instead of all being qualities of one God as being each the quality or attribute of separate gods.[8]

It stands to reason that since the Egyptians were not only distant relatives of God’s chosen people, they were equally finite-minded. Since God chose not to reveal Himself to them, they were unable to understand Him. According to Henty, this is why the priests came up with the idea of creating separate gods, each with an attribute of the true god, for the people to worship.

Through the revelations of Scripture, Christians know that God is the God of everything, from the oceans to childbirth to strength in war. However, if we did not understand that there was one God with the power to control everything, it would be quite easy to divide Him up into a passel of smaller gods. This is, in my opinion, what happened in pagan cultures such as Greek and Egyptian.

I propose that when Akhenaten saw what happened with the Hebrew Exodus, he realized the truth about God and did his best to bring his people as close to that theism as he could under the circumstances, and chose a God for the people to worship. The sun was his natural choice. I believe that this relates to Greek mythology in the same way—but God didn’t do the same works in Greece as He did in Egypt, and Greece, therefore, never took that next step of deity-unification, unlike Egypt under Akhenaten.


[1] Athene, Ares, and Hephaestus

[2] Herodotus, The Histories, trans. Robin Waterfield. (New York: University of Oxford Press, 1998), 118.

[3] Helios was responsible for bringing the sun up out of the sea in the morning and putting it back at night.

[4] as it affects other things, such as crops

[5] Ibid., 159.

[6] Herodotus suggests that Osiris relates to Dionysus. I can only suppose Herodotus meant before Horus killed Osiris.

(Ibid., 113).

7 The Egyptian goddess Bubastes (after whom the city was named) is the Greek Artemis, according to Herodotus

(Ibid., 159).

[8] G.A. Henty, The Cat of Bubastes: A Story of the Ancient Egypt. (New York: University of Oxford Press, 1998),

169-170.

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