ASHLEY WATTS:  ARTISTIC EXPRESSIONS OF THE SINFUL CULTURE OF ANCIENT EGYPT

This exhibit briefly focuses on the ancient Egyptians' advocacy of sin, whether the acts and beliefs were knowingly or unknowingly commited. The five pieces of artwork in this gallery which were created in Ancient Egypt were chosen to reveal three of the heaviest states of sinfulness in humanity: the worship of false gods, sexual immorality, and witchcraft or magic. All five of these chosen pieces can be categorized under one of the aforementioned states of sinfulness at least once, and maybe even thrice. There is much mystery to the lives of those who lived in ancient Egypt–a civilization which lasted more than 1,500 years over a course of three periods. However, a significant number of Egyptologists (archaelogists who specialize in the scientific study of the antiquities of ancient Egypt) can agree that their culture was infused with beliefs and lifestyles of utmost unrighteousness from the biblical perspective. The bible often references Egypt as a place of bondage and sin where God wants to deliver His people from.  One may ask, “what was it with those Egyptians which caused them to be so detestable in the eyes of God?”. The answer lies in knowledge of what sin is, of course, but even more, the depths of the sinful state of Egypt in particular–understanding what made their sin stand out amongst an entire world full of other sinful human beings. To whom much is given, much is expected. Could it have been their immense knowledge of the world around them, which would cause their wrong to be even more wrong since they should have known better? Perhaps it was their equating of false gods with the one true God which contributed to God’s weightier disdainment of them. They were indeed a people of power and greatly feared by civilizations around them, so there is no question they were able to forcefully coerce others in their civilization and around their civilization to join in on all of what they were doing. Mercifully, they left behind some pretty important clues to help us get a better idea of their beliefs and lifestyles which made them one of the most evil civiliazations in their time according to scripture. Upon researching ancient Egyptian art and correlating it with other historical facts outside of the art world, we can piece together how the religion in the culture of Ancient Egypt throughout all of its ages played a huge role in why God has referred to their civilization as the “house of bondage”. To this day, there are countless ideas that people all over the globe have borrowed and still are borrowing concepts that originated in Egypt which are keeping them in bondage whether spiritually or physically. Perhaps Egypt is a symbol of the state of man before Jesus Christ comes and establishes order in their personhood, freeing us from the false idols of our hearts, by which we can come to see as we study the physical idols and physical displays of sin that came out of Ancient Egypt. 

This piece, titled Sculpture of Erotic Group is made of painted limestone and was discovered in Alexandria, Egypt. It is housed at the Brooklyn Museum. Experts claim the sculpture was created between 305-30 BCE. During the time of 305-30 BCE, Egypt was not dominated by the worship of false gods and idols (Mark). Hellenistic thought was growing in popularity and tried to mesh with the existing Egyptian religion, but was still seen as troublesome by many. Out of all the places in Ancient Egypt during these times, Alexandria was experiencing the most unrest due to disputes between the Egyptians and the Hellenistic Romans. Egyptian pagan temples were being destroyed and even burned, and some were converted to churches. The city became culturally weakened and unstable, and a lot of Ancient Egyptian pagan artwork, such as the Sculpture of Erotic Group, was destroyed and abandoned. During the stretch incorporating much of the latter years of the time range that the Sculpture of Erotic Group could have been created, Alexandria had become more and more dominated by Roman thought due to the rule of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. However, they adopted some of the Ancient Egyptian religion into their own which resulted in a confusing canon of Egyptian art (Dungen). Nonetheless, the dominating beliefs in Alexandria from 331 BCE to 30 BCE were not good in the eyes of the God of the Bible, who spoke about the customs of the Egyptians as being very evil in His sight. The bible talks about inordinate sexual relations which were prevalent in Egypt (KJV Holy Bible, Eze. 23:2-3). God also reveals how non-Egyptians were influenced by the Egyptians and how they should not have wanted to engage in the lewdness and whoredom of Ancient Egypt, but rather forget about all they witnessed taking place there (KJV, Eze. 23:27). The bible even mentions specifically how a certain Egyptian prostitue lusted after lovers who had penises that were big as donkeys, much like the penis in this sculpture (NIV Study Bible, Eze. 23:19-20). Some experts have made the claim that this sculpture most likely represents the conception of the Egyptian god Horus from Isis, and it is not merely a depicion of some ametuer pornographic scene. It is evident that regardless of whether this sculpture was created to pay homage to Egyptian gods or to show some ordinary folks getting it on, it is a blatant display of sex worship and erotiscm, which the word of God strongly prohibits. Sculpture of Erotic Group. 305-30 BCE. Painted Limestone. Brooklyn Museum, Alexandria, Egypt. Mark, Joshua J. "Alexandria, Egypt." Ancient History Encyclopedia. 28 Apr. 2011. Web. 05 May 2016. Dungen, Wim Van Den. "ANCIENT EGYPT : The Rise of Alexandro-Egyptian Hellenism and Hermetism." 22 July 2003. Web. 06 May 2016. King James Holy Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1976. Print. NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 2011. Print.
The Statuette of Ptah, god of capital Memphis, creator god/patron of artisans is a bronze statue experts say was created between 8th century BCE – 7th century BCE in Ancient Egypt. Ptah, also called The Great One, was an ancient Old Kingdom Egyptian god who Ancient Egyptians believed was the creator of all things. It was believed that he thought of anything he wanted to exist and when he spoke it, it came into existence. He was a part of a trinity along with his son Imhotep and his wife Sekhmet. In the sculpture, Ptah is holding an anhk and a djed. The Egyptian anhk was used to signify of the key of life, and when a deity held it, it was to show that they had access of the breath that gives created beings life (Ankh). The djed, Egyptian for “to speak” or “to declare” that is on Ptah’s scepture symbolized his power and divine establishment (Weidner, et al.). Ptah is just one of many gods, such as Atum and Amun, that was worshipped in Ancient Egypt as a creator. Ancient Egyptians myriad of “creator gods” implies that none of the gods could really be true. If one of their god’s created all things, how could another? The word of God specifially states that people are not to put any other gods before Him and that there are no other true gods besides Him (KJV, Ex. 20:3; Isa. 44:6). Ancient Egyptians were extrememly wrapped up in the worship of false gods, even to the extent of giving them the attributes of doing the first thing the bible says the true God did, which was Him creating all things (KJV Col. 1:16). In the bible, God says that He will punish Egypt for having false gods (KJV, Jer. 46:25). This one example of many, many Ancient Egyptian gods makes it evident that Ancient Egypt was indeed deep into sin. Statuette of Ptah, God of Capital Memphis, Creator God/patron of Artisans. 8th Century BCE - 7th Century BCE. Bronze. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Egypt. Ankh: The Key of Life. San Francisco, CA: Red WheelWeiser, 2007. Print. Weidner, Jay, Vincent Bridges, and Jay Weidner. The Mysteries of the Great Cross of Hendaye: Alchemy and the End of Time. Rochester, VT: Destiny, 2003. Print. King James Holy Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1976. Print.
In the Drawing of Coptic magical figures, created between the 8th and 9th century of Ancient Egypt, also known as the Coptic Period, it has been found that the piece is a part of a manuscript folio. A folio is defined as “An individual leaf of paper or parchment, numbered on the recto or front side only, occurring either loose as one of a series or forming part of a bound volume.” (Soanes). The Ancient Coptic Egyptians had countless writings and drawings in the form of folios and other publication forms, which contained esoteric messages that have not yet been able to be decoded. Some of they Ancient Egyptians in the Christianity-influenced Coptic Age relied heavily upon “higher powers” from Egyptian paganism to help their desires come about (Coptic Magical Papyrus). The Romans who lived throughtout the Coptic age were against much of the Coptic beliefs, especially the use of magic, so they would burn magical books and put magic practicioners in prison (Meyer). The signs and images used in magical drawings such as this one were were forms of witchcraft spells thought to have the power to produce a certain outcome that the practicioner desired. In ancient Egyptian magic rituals, when a person was drawn in a certain way, such as in this image, it was believed that the artist could “draw out” them being injured or harmed. Some of the magic rituals of creating spells on papyrus in the Coptic Age were also created by people who wanted to be protected by demons. Some of the spells written by the Coptics were even thought to have had the power to invoke the Holy Spirit. However, there is no scriptural proof that this is something that God instructs His people to do. Magic and witchcraft is strongly prohibited in the Bible, but some of the Coptic Christians were using it while thinking it helped their Christianity (KJV, Lev. 19:31). Today, the use of magical practice in the Christian church could very well be rooted in what the Coptics were doing in Ancient Egypt. Drawing of Coptic Magical Figures. 8th-9th Century. Ink on papyrus. Freer Gallery of Art, Egypt. Soanes, Catherine, and Angus Stevenson. "Folio." Def. 1.4. Oxford Dictionary of English. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003. Print. "Coptic Magical Papyrus." Echoes of Egypt. Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University. Web. 06 May 2016. Meyer, Marvin W., and Richard Smith. Ancient Christian Magic: Coptic Texts of Ritual Power. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994. Print.
In Ancient Egypt, they worshipped bulls not only because they believed they were sacred, but they also thought that their sacred bull, or “bull of bulls”, was embodied by one of their many “creator gods” Ptah. To them, the bull which they chose according to what they perceived a perfect bull was, was a representation of strength and energy. They believed that a bull’s breath was prophetic. Each of their cities had their own sacred bull that would be succeeded by another after it died.(Spence). The bull shared the same respect as a diety. For instance, when it died, they would mummify it in a similar way to how a person would be mummified and placed into a large sarcophagus. The word “bull” was known as “ka” in their language, which to them, was the concept of the power that a god gave a human to make them alive (Rice). Ancient Israleites who lived in Egypt adopted the worship of the bull from the Egyptians. Biblical scholars have identified the worship of the bull as the detestable Egyptian idol spoken of in the bible called the golden calf.(KJV, Ex. 1:1; Ex. 32). Perhaps the false idol of the bull represents man’s belief that he is his own creator, having the “life force” to sway his own life in any manner he or she chooses. Many eastern religions have that mindset, where they believe that they are in control of their own lives. They may not say it directly, but their beliefs and actions show that they believe there is some other “life force” that gives them a certain control over their lives that only the one true God actually has. That humanistic idea, which may be rooted in idolotrous practices of Egypt such as the worship of the bull, is an idol that exists in the hearts of so many men to this day. Statue of a Bull. 600 BC. Metal, bronze. Rijksmuseum Van Oudheden, Egypt. Spence, Lewis. The History of Atlantis. New Hyde Park, NY: U, 1968. Print. Rice, Michael. The Power of the Bull. London: Routledge, 1998. Print. King James Holy Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1976. Print.
The Egyptian Book of the Dead is an ancient manuscript that reveals a lot of the dark beliefs that were prevalent in Ancient Egypt such as necromancy and magic. It actually contained magic spells which they believed would help dead people navigate through the underworld. They also thought that they were responsible for nourishing their dead loved ones so they could have enough strength to come back to life on earth. Certain spells contained in the book were even for the Ancient Egyptians to control dangerous animals such as crocodiles (Taylor). The bible says that we should not try to communicate with the dead, cast spells, or practice any type of magic (KJV, Isa. 8:19; Deu. 18:10-12). Instead, we should depend on His power alone. They did not rely on the name of God, but the names of magical words, charms, and spells to achieve supernatural results. Book of the Dead. 1050 BC - 725 BC. Ink on papyrus. Museu Episcopal De Vic, Egypt. Taylor, John H. Journey through the Afterlife: Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2010. Print. King James Holy Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1976. Print.
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