domingo, 11 de marzo de 2012


The belief that the deeds done in the body would be subjected to an analysis and scrutiny by the divine powers after the death of a man belongs to the earliest period of Egyptian civilization, and this belief remained substantially the same in all generations. Though we have no information as to the locality where the Last Judgment took place, or whether the Egyptian soul passed into the judgment-hall immediately after the death of the body, or after the mummification was ended and the body was deposited in the tomb, it is quite certain that the belief in the judgment was as deeply rooted in the Egyptians as the belief in immortality. There seems to have been no idea of a general judgment when all those who had lived in the world should receive their reward for the deeds done in the body; on the contrary, all the evidence available goes to show that each soul was dealt with individually, and was either permitted to pass into the kingdom of Osiris and of the blessed, or was destroyed straightway. Certain passages in the texts seem to suggest the idea of the existence of a place for departed spirits wherein the souls condemned in the judgment might dwell, but it must be remembered that it was the enemies of Rā, the Sun-god, that inhabited this region; and it is impossible to imagine that the divine powers who presided over the judgment would permit the souls of the wicked to live after they had been condemned and to become enemies of those who were pure and blessed. On the other hand, if we attach any importance to the ideas of the Copts upon this subject, and consider that they represent ancient beliefs which they derived from the Egyptians traditionally, it must be admitted that the Egyptian underworld contained some region wherein the souls of the wicked were punished for an indefinite period. The Coptic lives of saints and martyrs are full of allusions to the sufferings of the damned, but whether the descriptions of these are due to imaginings of the mind of the Christian Egyptian or to the bias of the scribe's opinions cannot always be said. When we consider that the Coptic hell was little more than a modified form of the ancient Egyptian Amenti, or Amentet, it is difficult to believe that it was the name of the Egyptian underworld only which was borrowed, and that the ideas and beliefs concerning it which were held by the ancient Egyptians were not at the same time absorbed. Some Christian writers are most minute in their classification of the wicked in hell, as we may see from the following extract from the life of Pisentios, Bishop of Keft, in the VIIth century of our era. The holy man had taken refuge in a tomb wherein a number of mummies had been piled up, and when he had read the list of the names of the people who had been buried there he gave it to his disciple to replace. Then he addressed his disciple and admonished him to do the work of God with diligence, and warned him that every man must become even as were the mummies which lay before them. "And some," said he, "whose sins have been many are now in Amenti, others are in the outer darkness, others are in pits and ditches filled with fire, and others are in the river of fire: upon these last no one hath bestowed rest. And others, likewise, are in a place of rest, by reason of their good works." When the disciple had departed, the holy man began to talk to one of the mummies who had been a native of the town of Erment, or Armant, and whose father and mother had been called Agricolaos and Eustathia. He had been a worshipper of Poseidon, and had never heard that Christ had come into the world. "And," said he "woe, woe is me because I was born into the world. Why did not my mother's womb become my tomb? When, it became necessary for me to die, the Kosmokratôr angels were the first to come round about me, and they told me of all the sins which I had committed, and they said unto me, 'Let him that can save thee from the torments into which thou shalt be cast come hither.' And they had in their hands iron knives, and pointed goads which were like unto sharp spears, and they drove them into my sides and gnashed upon me with their teeth. When a little time afterwards my eyes were opened I saw death hovering about in the air in its manifold forms, and at that moment angels who were without pity came and dragged my wretched soul from my body, and having tied it under the form of a black horse they led me away to Amonti. Woe be unto every sinner like unto myself who hath been born into the world! O my master and father, I was then delivered into the hands of a multitude of tormentors who were without pity and who had each a different form. Oh, what a number of wild beasts did I see in the way! Oh, what a number of powers were there that inflicted punishment upon me! And it came to pass that when I had been cast into the outer darkness, I saw a great ditch which was more than two hundred cubits deep, and it was filled with reptiles; each reptile had seven heads, and the body of each was like unto that of a scorpion. In this place also lived the Great Worm, the mere sight of which terrified him that looked thereat. In his mouth he had teeth like unto iron stakes, and one took me and threw me to this Worm which never ceased to eat; then immediately all the [other] beasts gathered together near him, and when he had filled his mouth [with my flesh] , all the beasts who were round about me filled theirs." In answer to the question of the holy man as to whether he had enjoyed any rest or period without suffering, the mummy replied: "Yea, O my father, pity is shown unto those who are in torment every Saturday and every Sunday. As soon as Sunday is over we are cast into the torments which we deserve, so that we may forget the years which we have passed in the world; and as soon as we have forgotten the grief of this torment we are cast into another which is still more grievous."
Now, it is easy to see from the above description of the torments which the wicked were supposed to suffer, that the writer had in his mind some of the pictures with which we are now familiar, thanks to the excavation of tombs which has gone on in Egypt during the last few years; and it is also easy to see that he, in common with many other Coptic writers, misunderstood the purport of them. The outer darkness, i.e., the blackest place of all in the underworld, the river of fire, the pits of fire, the snake and the scorpion, and such like things, all have their counterparts, or rather originals, in the scenes which accompany the texts which describe the passage of the sun through the underworld during the hours of the night. Having once misunderstood the general meaning of such scenes, it was easy to convert the foes of Rā, the Sun-god, into the souls of the damned, and to look upon the burning up of such foes--who were after all only certain powers of nature personified--as the well-merited punishment of those who had done evil upon the earth. How far the Copts reproduced unconsciously the views which had been held by their ancestors for thousands of years cannot be said, but even after much allowance has been made for this possibility, there remains still to be explained a large number of beliefs and views which seem to have been the peculiar product of the Egyptian Christian imagination. It has been said above that the idea of the judgment of the dead is of very great antiquity in Egypt; indeed, it is so old that it is useless to try to ascertain the date of the period when it first grew up. In the earliest religious texts known to us, there are indications that the Egyptians expected a judgment, but they are not sufficiently definite to argue from; it is certainly doubtful if the judgment was thought to be as thorough and as searching then as in the later period. As far back as the reign of Men-kau-Rā, the Mycerinus of the Greeks, about B.C. 3600, a religious text, which afterwards formed chapter 30B of the Book of the Dead, was found inscribed on an iron slab; in the handwriting of the god Thoth, by the royal son or prince Herutātāf. The original purpose of the composition of this text cannot be said, but there is little doubt that it was intended, to benefit the deceased in the judgment, and, if we translate its title literally, it was intended to prevent his heart from "falling away from him in the underworld." In

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