Stargate:Contemporary Sci-fi Meets Ancient Egypt

Since the 19th century, ancient Egypt has been one of the most “exotic” cultures to admire for those in the western world. As it is a civilization of great, almost unprecedented technological and architectural advances, it has been the object of great scrutiny for scholars for centuries. Popular culture seemingly embraced this almost mystic attitude towards ancient Egypt in many films over the years, my favorite being in the movie Stargate. It is a sci-fi thriller starring James Spader, and as cheesy as it can be at times (as any sci-fi can be), I thought it was an interesting and thought provoking film. In Stargate, ancient Egyptian religion and culture are represented in a way that draws from actual ancient Egyptian fact, yet puts a “Hollywood” spin on it per say.

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James Spader played “Daniel,” the nerdy scientist who uncovers the clues

The first representation in Stargate that I wished to address is that of the Egyptian sun god Ra. In the film, Ra is an alien creature that dominates humanity and uses them to continue to sustain him for thousands of years. He is portrayed as androgynous, having the features of both a man and a woman, which may actually have some precedent in ancient Egyptian culture. As studied in my Religion of the Pharaohs class, Hatshepsut was often depicted in art with the features of both a man and a woman. But were these done for the same reasons? In my opinion, the androgyny of Ra is related to Hatshepsut, but also it is done in order to communicate to the viewer how different Ra truly is as a different species than human. These androgynous features accentuate how different and alien he is in both senses of the word.

 

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Life giving sarcophagus from the movie Stargate

 

Another representation that I thought was fascinating in Stargate was that of the traditional Egyptian sarcophagus. In ancient Egypt, the sarcophagus was extremely important in the process of proceeding to the afterlife, as it served as something like a passage or gateway in the rituals of preparing a person for the afterlife. Yet, the representation in the movie takes it a step further, showing that the sarcophagus can actually restore life to those dead. Though the representations may be different, what remains the same is how necessary the role of the sarcophagus is, either for attaining afterlife, or maintaining life. The role of the sarcophagus is prominent in ancient Egyptian culture and religion, exemplified by its indelible role in the plot line of the film (saving the life of Daniel’s wife).

The last representation I wished to discuss from the film is also the most far fetched in my opinion. Pyramids in Stargate were giant docking stations for Ra’s enormous spaceship. As studied in my class, pyramids had everything to do with the afterlife, being built on the west side of the Nile (West represents afterlife) as places of eternal worship for whichever pharaoh built it. This representation does not seem to have any cultural or religious significance when discussing ancient Egypt.

However, when relating how pyramids are depicted in the movie, when analyzed in comparison to contemporary cultural issues there is much to say! Depicting pyramids as “alien” may be meant as a post-colonialism mockery on the history between Britain and modern Egypt. Therefore maybe making things look alien and foreign with Ra and the pyramids might just be a way to make ancient Egypt look exotic and exciting, or it may also be a satirical mockery of the colonial attitude. I believe this is supported by the overall plot of the movie, as it is a slave revolt against a power thought to be too great to overcome. The natives, in this case, signify Egypt as a small powerless colony breaking away from Ra, the exploiting tyrant which signifies Great Britain.

Overall, the different representations of ancient Egyptian religion and culture in the film Stargate paint a very different view than what fact has us believe. Some of these changes maintained roots in ancient Egyptian fact, such as the representation of the sarcophagus, yet others were made seemingly nonchalantly in order to either put a “hollywood” spin on the story or to attack a contemporary issue such as the aftermath of colonialism. As there is so more to the film than what I was able to analyze here, I encourage anyone who is a true lover of ancient Egypt (or sci-fi) to watch the film themselves and see what conclusions they find!

 

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Making the Best of an Unlikely Situation: A Trip to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

Recently, I made a trip to San Jose to visit the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. However, this trip had a bit of a snag to it. When we arrived there, we were informed that there were rolling blackouts in the area, and without power there was no way we could get inside the museum. As disappointing as this was, my class and I made the best of this predicament.

First, we attended a small cosmetology workshop discussing what kind of makeup ancient Egyptians were known to wear. I was able to relate this to several things we learned in the course I am in, namely the many precious materials mined to promote the wealth and stature of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs. One of the materials we learned about, malachite, is a copper ore that gives a green in Egyptian eye makeup. This ore was one of many that was brought back when the pharaoh Hatshepsut made her extremely well known expedition to Punt, which was just one of many expeditions to obtain this material and many others from this resource rich land.

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Malachite ore would have made Egyptian eye makeup look similar to this color.

Once the cosmetic workshop was over we made a brief visit to the Rosicrucian library, and then had a tour of the grounds surrounding the museum, during which I was able to observe several pieces of Egyptian replicas. One such piece was that of an ancient Egyptian obelisk depicting hieroglyphs, seen below

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Obelisk Replica at Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum grounds

Obelisks such as this were an architectural beauty in ancient Egypt, and I remember seeing the impact they had on Egyptian architecture when my class studied the temple at Karnak. Karnak in itself is an architectural marvel due to the span of time during which it was built, ranging from the Middle Kingdom to well beyond. Many pharaohs added their own temples to it that they are known by, but the famous obelisk at Karnak was in honor of, once again, Hatshepsut, who as you can tell made an indelible mark on ancient Egyptian history well beyond the fact that she was a female pharaoh.

After observing the obelisk, the next thing that drew my attention were the paintings on the gate at one entrance to the grounds, seen here:

 

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Painting on gate at Rosicrucian Museum grounds entrance

This painting specifically reminds me of our study of Akhenaten and his belief and worship of the sun disc god Aten. Though I am unsure what the image is actually depicting, it has a variety of Egyptian symbols that were common motifs in art during that time. It is also very reminiscent of a specific well known carving of the worship of Aten, the pseudo-monotheistic god that the pharaoh Akhenaten promoted the worship of during the Amarna period of ancient Egypt, seen below.

 

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Akhenaten paying homage to the sun god Aten

Overall, despite not even being able to go into the museum, my classmates and I were able to salvage the trip and have a very good time. Though seeing actual artifacts in the museum would have been ideal, I was able to learn a bit in the workshop held and the tour of the grounds. What this has made me realize is that I know a great deal more about ancient Egypt after taking “Religion of the Pharaohs” with my professor, Dr. Schroeder, this semester. It has opened my eyes to many traditions and similarities modern society has taken from ancient Egypt, such as something as trivial as wearing eye makeup on a daily basis. The tour of the Rosicrucian grounds showed me that ancient Egypt’s influences can be seen everywhere, as long as you know what to look for!

Outside Image Sources:

  1. https://woodsciencewiki.wikispaces.com/file/view/nyx_green_by_armitage85-d2za8xg.jpg/187613499/400×240/nyx_green_by_armitage85-d2za8xg.jpg
  2. http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/images/aten2.jpg

The Amarna Religious Revolution: An Analysis of a switch to Monotheism in a Polytheistic Culture

 

Throughout the ages, humans have wrestled with the idea of higher beings. Is there one or is there many? Is there one that rules above all while other minor gods fulfill smaller roles? These questions have been asked over and over again about the Amarna period in ancient Egypt. The Amarna period was a time of many changes, all stemming from a strong shift in religious belief. This shift influenced the art, politics, even the geography of the entire era, and it was not a change that was ideal for many Egyptians of that time. But what exactly was this new kind of religion? Egyptians had typically been polytheistic up until this time, but perhaps this new religion was not polytheism. In fact, in my opinion, this new religion was drastic enough in its changes for it to be considered a new kind of religion entirely, specifically monotheism.

 

In order to analyze what kind of religious revolution was occurring at that time, the “Hymn to Aten” located in Mieroop’s A History of Ancient Egypt was looked upon as a source of interest. As translated from the hymn, “Every lion comes out from its den, all the snakes bite; Darkness hovers and earth is silent; As the one who created all things rests in the horizon. Statements like this appear to delineate one specific god as either being more powerful than all the rest, or there is only one god. The one who created all things almost sounds like texts we hear in monotheistic religions like Catholicism, where statements in prayer typically talk about one creator.

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Modern monotheistic religions symbols.

Also similar to modern day monotheistic religions like Christianity, this god, called Aten, had a mortal associated with him. Though at times throughout ancient Egyptian history pharaohs have associated themselves or their reigns with a specific god, few have done so as completely dedicated to one god as Akhenaten. As Jesus was associated with the Christian God, so was Akhenaten associated with Aten. In the hymn to Aten, near the end of the text Akhenaten is described as the only one who truly knows Aten and the god gives him and only him council. This makes it so the entire religion must rely on the whims of one person, as it is said that only Akhenaten can associate with the god.

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Symbol of Polytheism

In an Egyptian society where so many gods are venerated and glorified in many different ways, this focus on one superior god while the other gods were basically ignored seemed like an affront by many ancient Egyptians. Not only that, officials were intimidated by the power that this gave the pharaoh, and were extremely reluctant to accept it. There is evidence that Akhenaten met very staunch resistance when implementing his religious revolution, as many believe that Akhenaten and Nefertiti were forced by unrest in local officials to move the capitol to a new area, which they called Akhetaten, where they could exert control using the military. This is believed because much art from this time period depicts the military in everyday life, which is unlike how the military has been depicted before, usually in conquest over other nations, not seen in other contexts. Changes as drastic and far reaching as these seem to support the hypothesis that this is not just a change in religious style, but an attempt at a whole new religion, one that is monotheistic. The strong reaction that local officials had to the religious changes presented support this claim.

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Akhenaten depicted giving offerings to the god Aten, signified by the sun disc.

 

 

Aten was the sun disc god, elevated in stature by his father Amenhotep III, and glorified to an intensity that left many ordinary Egyptians and high ranking officials alike very disgruntled with this new religious focus. Akhenaten not only encouraged worship of only his god, there is  also evidence that he discouraged the worship of other gods.

 

The reason I do not believe that the religious revolution of the Amarna period was polytheistic or something else like henotheism (the practice of having one supreme god with many minor gods supporting) is the singular focus placed on Aten during this period. This switch to monotheism could have been done for a variety of reasons, political and religious. By associating one god with himself, the king consolidated all of the religious and political power within one being and not multiple gods. Gone were the days where offerings were to be made to many gods for many specific roles, Akhenaten wished for all to worship him, for only he had the power to interact with his special god. This idea of monotheism is also supported by the fact that when Akhenaten’s son, Tutankhamun, took power he allowed the return of worship of the many traditional gods of Egypt. While the many facts presented here support my hypothesis that he is promoting a monotheistic religion, we may never know the true intentions behind this switch, as we can only base our analysis off of the artistic changes of the period, the geographic changes in power by moving the capitol to a new neutral location, and long forgotten texts such as the “Hymn to Aten” analyzed here.

 

Picture Sources in Order:

http://www.adn.com/sites/default/files/styles/full_width_620/public/images/topic/commentary/religioussymbols2.png?itok=DeRIxXN-

http://www.firmament-chaos.com/images/osirisra/jpg

 

Morality and Afterlife: An Analysis of Old Kingdom Autobiographies

When I think of ancient Egyptian morality, a specific inscription or drawing always seems to come to mind.

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This drawing of Anubis weighing the soul of a mortal Egyptian man is what I, and I am sure many others, first think of. In this drawing, the soul of the deceased is weighed to determine its worth, which is determined by the good and bad deeds done throughout the mortals life.  If they lived a life full of good deeds, the gods would reward them with a happy afterlife. However, there is much more to the Egyptian relationship between morality and the afterlife than what they believed their gods would do for them. Ancient Egyptians had a complex understanding of morality, with many factors that we may not even consider today in our modern societal views of morality.

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False Door of Sitinteti: Old Kingdom

In my study of ancient Egyptian afterlife practices, I came across various autobiographical accounts dating back to the Old Kingdom. These autobiographies were usually located on the false door of the deceased’s tomb. They would tell of great deeds or would attempt to tie themselves to royalty in order to show their stature and repute during their life. This seemed to most commonly be a practice of high-ranking officials during the Old Kingdom. However, most commonly recounted among these autobiographies were tales of good deeds, showing the good character of the tomb owner. These testaments to the morality of the tomb owner show just how important morality was to Egyptian afterlife beliefs.

 

Morality was paramount in ancient Egyptians understanding of the afterlife. This concept is well exemplified in the autobiography of Qar. (Simpson 412) Qar was a nomarch of the pharaoh Edfu near the end of the Old Kingdom. From the small amount of text that was recovered, several specific motifs and ideas about morality become evident. One such idea is service to the poor. As said in the autobiography, “I gave bread to the hungry and clothing to the naked of those I found in my nome. I gave jugs of milk.” This casts Qar as a compassionate and benevolent ruler. Then Qar goes beyond that, and gives grain from his own personal stores to feed the hungry. That is truly a noble sacrifice, but again he outdoes himself when he pays off the debts of the men in his nome out of his own pocket. Deed upon deed is compounded to show just how moral a ruler Qar was. His service to the poor in his region is shown to be unparalleled. Statements like these became common to most autobiographies of the era.

 

Another idea that seems central to Egyptian morality and its relationship to the afterlife is that of justice. Those in power have the responsibility to be just in their actions and choices. This is also shown in the autobiography of Qar, where it says, “I rescued a poor man from one more powerful than he. I judged two brothers so that they were satisfied.” (Simpson 413) Why would Qar have these deeds written in his autobiography other than to show that he has made wise decisions in disputes and have not taken advantage of those who lack in strength or power? To have such power, and to not be corrupted by it while maintaining a steadfast moral justice is an essential motif to most autobiographies of this era.  Therefore, this Egyptian ideal of justice is essential to good morality, which is the path to a good afterlife.

 

Another ideal that I found to be associated with the Egyptian version of morality is quite a foreign concept to us today. This is the morality of service to the king. Due to the fact that we live in a democratic society with no rightful king, owing any allegiance to a superior is already a difficult concept for us to comprehend. But basing your moral compass off of actions to serve another just does not seem quite right to me! I draw this conjecture because of how strange it may seem to the average person today. How can serving someone of authority (like the President or other government official today) be even remotely related to your own personal morality? Ancient Egyptians (or those that I studied having surviving autobiographies) had a different bond with their king then we have today with our officials.   As shown in Qar, “I pacified all desert lands for the Residence, because my watchfulness was effective therein, and I was rewarded by my lord.” The “Residence” Qar refers to is that of the king, his lands and his dominion, that Qar has done well in taking care of. Qar wants to draw this conjecture for a to bring himself closer to the king. During the Old Kingdom, the pharaoh was believed to become a god after their death. Being able to tie yourself to him, and doing good works for him, would therefore increase your chances of a good afterlife. My suspicion is that this belief in the divination of the pharaoh added this morality of service to the king to the moral ideals of autobiographies in the Old Kingdom era.

 

Over time, these brief autobiographies began to be increasingly formulaic, with the recitation of specific virtues. Giving to the poor, being just in your decisions, and being of service to the King were the most common of these virtues to be displayed. They each exemplify a piece of what Old Kingdom autobiographies showed about the moral outlook of the afterlife of ancient Egyptians, or at least those ancient Egyptians that can afford a tomb with a false door.

Reference:Click here 

New Testament Essay 3-Resurrection Comparison

What are the differences between the way Jesus’s death and resurrection is portrayed in each of the four canonical Gospels, and what is the significance of this portrayal in terms of what happened historically?

 

Matthew Passage Link: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=266015537

Mark Passage Link: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=266015723

Luke Passage Link: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=266015770

John Passage Link: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=266015837

 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a staple of all Christian ideology. Naturally, this means that this story in the bible, told in each of the four canonical gospels, receives a huge amount of attention from scholars. Each discrepancy and differentiation between each of the gospels means something, and we as scholars must decipher what the true story is. Jesus’s life and deeds are told through the gospels, but these gospels were written generations after his death. Which of the gospels is the most correct? From a historical standpoint, how did Jesus’s death and resurrection really happen? Historically, we can determine what really occurred at Jesus’s death through an analysis and interpretation of the four different Gospel stories of the death and resurrection.

We will begin with Mark, as it is the oldest of the gospels. It is also the most “bare bones” of the stories. In comparison to the other stories, the text is very straight forward and dry. This significance of this cut and dry nature is that the overall text is more believable because of the lack of hyperbole and overstatement that is used in the other texts to explain Jesus’s actions, including his death and resurrection. The resurrection story is not even very clear in Mark, the only evidence of it being when the young man in the tomb, discovered by Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary the mother of James said, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” This interpretation of the resurrection is, in my opinion, the most important of any of them, due to the fact that it is the oldest of the recorded gospels. Though that does not necessarily mean it is the most right, it does give the story more vindication, especially because the other two synoptic gospels, Matthew and Luke, seem to take elements from the Mark version in order to tell their own. Therefore, based on the writings in the Gospel of Mark, we can assume certain things to be true about the true death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus was put on trial by the Jewish religious powers, condemned to flogging and death by the Romans. He was crucified, a painful death by all accounts, and was buried in a tomb. After three days, the tomb was discovered to be empty, with Jesus’s body being moved, or raised from the dead as the common Christian belief entails.

These details from the Gospel of Mark that are deemed true historically are also seen in the other canonical gospels. This gives these facts more weight as truth, as they are taken from different authors. However, it is worth mentioning that both Luke and Matthew were influenced by the Gospel of Mark, so the issue of no collusion was not exactly fulfilled. Another issue about the sources about Jesus’s life and resurrection is that the New Testament have the only versions of the story, besides brief recollections of Jesus by Josephus and Tacitus, so there are not as many sources as historians would like. The Gospels earliest copies are thought to be written past 60 CE, several generations after the death of Jesus, which also takes away from the tangibility of them giving perfect accounts of what happened because it is far removed from his lifetime, with none of the authors directly knowing Jesus. The authors of the Gospels also contradict each other at times, but not in the details I have specified above. For example, one of the biggest contradictions is the actual day of Jesus’s crucifixion, the argument being whether or not Jesus died as a representation of “the Passover Lamb” or not. The last stipulation historians look for is the bias of the author. Each of the later gospels shows some type of bias from the authorship. Mark, however, is written earliest, and seemingly almost without bias. Through all of these historical tests, the Gospel of Mark is shown to be the best authority on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

From a historical perspective, the undisputable information about Jesus’s death and resurrection ends with Mark. The later gospels, Matthew, Luke, and John, all take from Mark these basic premises that we can assume to be true about Jesus’s life, but also add different details and additional stories. These can be understood to be parables, serving to further certain significant Christian ideals or the views of a certain group of Christians in some cases. Matthew, is one of those said views, in which an accusatory tone towards the Romans is invoked through this different telling of the resurrection. In this telling, Jesus’s tomb is discovered by a couple of Roman soldiers, who, mystified, tell their superiors. Their superiors then end up bribing the soldiers in order for them to keep their silence about what they saw. The Matthew interpretation of the death and resurrection is much more wordy than that of Mark, and it can be interpreted in different passages as anti-Roman or anti-Semitic. The anti-Roman view can be seen through the story outlined above, blaming the Roman authorities for trying to keep the truth about Jesus quiet. However, earlier in Matthew, the blame for Jesus’s death is put almost wholeheartedly on the Jews, as Pontius Pilate was said to have “washed his hands” of Jesus’s death and to take no part in it. Depending on what passage you look at, supposed bias can be seen or unseen. For example, many groups of today have used Matthew’s anti-Semitic tone in this passage to further their anti-Semitic goals. Overall, Matthew does not really appear to be a credible historical souce, rather a text to be analyzed for why it includes the stories it does, as they add something significant to Christian ideology.

Luke, just like Matthew, should be taken mainly as parables about Jesus’s life because the author exhibits bias and many of the stories take on a sort of “teaching aspect.” The most unique story in the Gospel of Luke resurrection story that differentiates it from the others is that of the walk to Emmaus. Cleopas and a companion, assumed to be Peter, come across Jesus as they travel along the way to Emmaus. Unfortunately, they do not recognize him at all, and he travels with them to the town, preaching to them the old prophecies as they walk. Only after they have invited him to stay with them is it revealed to them that it is Jesus. Why is this important to this gospel? I believe it is because it is showing Jesus testing his disciples, trying to see if they are ready to preach and praise him to the world, and his interactions with them satisfy him when he invites them in for the night.

John is the most different of the four gospels as it is not one of the synoptic gospels. The most glaring differences between John and the synoptics is Jesus’s appearance to Mary Magdalene after his death. She, like in Luke, also does not recognize him at first. I believe the significance of this is to be symbolic of Mary’s and the other disciples “spiritual eyes” being opened, because only then do they truly understand that Jesus has risen. This is supported by the story of doubting Thomas shortly after that in John. First, Jesus appears to the other disciples, yet Thomas still does not believe them. Jesus then appears to him, saying, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ I do not really believe this actually occurred. I believe it to be a parable about never doubting your faith in Jesus, and adds to the early motif I suggested about the disciples spiritual eyes being opened. The true story about what happened during 30 CE so long ago may never be known, but the best evidence towards what happened are attributed to the Gospel of Mark. The other Gospels, on the other hand, still prove to be very significant to Christianity because they develop Christian ideology.

-This was a much more ambitious compare/contrast than I had anticipated.  I tried to edit out a lot of my old stuff to make it shorter but I really liked it all, so it is a little long, even with me taking out the piece of art.  Thanks for a great semester!

-Nate

The Relationship Between the Portrayals of Jesus’s and Mary’s Childhoods

Question: What are the differences and similarities between the portrayals of Jesus and Mary in their childhoods in the Proto-Gospel of James and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas?

 Associated Readings:

http://www.tonyburke.ca/infancy-gospel-of-thomas/the-childhood-of-the-saviour-infancy-gospel-of-thomas-a-new-translation/

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/infancyjames-roberts.html

 Passage:

The tales of Jesus and Mary during their respective childhoods serve as a sort of vindication for their holiness in their later life. Though neither of the stories are exactly made up of historical truths, both get their messages across well. The portrayals of the characters of Jesus and Mary in their early lives are very similar, yet also have remarkable differences. However, both serve to exemplify how each as holy figures were viewed during the time the Proto-Gospel of James and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas were written.

Mary, as viewed by the church, is the mother of God, and therefore, should be without sin herself. Her childhood story captures a Mary that is born and lives free of sin. Beginning with the pleas of her parents for a child, which brings about the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which to this day is a hugely important part of Catholic doctrine, we see in the Infancy Gospel of James how Mary is shaped to be a vessel for the Lord’s work. After her birth, Mary spends her childhood sheltered from the outside world, whether it be in her initial three years spent at home, or after, as she was raised in the Temple of God. Mary is portrayed to be of the utmost purity, shown by things like at the age of three, going on to her new life being raised at the Temple without even looking back at her parents. This goes to show her dedication to the Lord, which foreshadows her large role as the mother of God she will play later in life.

Jesus’s childhood has a rather different focus, on the other hand. It epitomizes many characteristics about Jesus, primarily his otherworldly wisdom and his role as a wrathful God. Jesus is portrayed as a child that you really should not mess with, as he plays by his own set of rules, not being bound by the set of rules that restrict humans. For example, Jesus kills a child with a few words just for bumping into him. He also curses many people who were disrespecting or ridiculing him, portraying him as a wrathful God that must not be trifled with, but respected and feared. However, he also is shown to have a remarkable aptitude for forgiveness, when he says, “Now let the barren bear fruit and the blind see the fruit of judgment.” This serves to show that Jesus may be a wrathful God, he is also merciful, willing to forgive those who believe in him and repent from their foolishness. Above all else, Jesus is portrayed to have a knowledge and wealth of wisdom that no child of that age should have. As an example, at age five his father wished for him to be taught letters by an elder in their village, yet when Jesus was being instructed, he refused to speak the letters. When confronted by the old man, Jesus very simply explains that he is not qualified to teach him, as he does not know the “nature” of the letters. He then goes on to recite the entirety of the alphabet, thereby shaming the old man and showing his extreme enlightenment all at once. Therefore, Jesus’s characteristics later in life were foreshadowed through this telling of his childhood, where he exhibits many of his godlike attributes.

There are also some characteristics that the portrayals of Jesus and his mother, Mary, have in common about their childhood stories. The two most exhibited are their great power as holy figures, and their deep personal connections with God. These characteristics are shown in much the same ways. Mary is shown to have great power in that she is spoken to by an angel. Only those people who are truly powerful figures in Christianity have had the chance to speak to an angel, an otherworldly being. This shows Mary’s power and connection to God beyond any other person in her time, besides her husband Joseph. Jesus’s immense power is shown through the many miracles and curses he does throughout the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. The best example of this is when he forms a group of sparrows out of clay mud and commands them to come to life. Only a God would have the power to give life to an inanimate object, and thus shows he is truly powerful. Jesus’s deep connection to God in heaven is best shown through his interactions with the elders and priests when he was in Jerusalem. The wisdom he displayed, and the questions he asked showed experience well beyond that of a child, and that he had a distinct connection to God.

Therefore, both Jesus and Mary were characterized by the writings of the Infancy Gospel of James and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. The portrayals of each share certain attributes, yet also show some differences. The stereotypical vision of Jesus and Mary could be seen through their embodiment in each of these stories, and this vision has made such an impact that it has lasted till the present day, where Jesus and Mary are the most important figures in Christianity.

New Testament Essay 1

Mark 9:1-13

Passage: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=259421270

The first verse of Chapter 9 seems to say, as interpreted from the perspective of those that lived in those ancient times, that within their lifetimes, the power of the Kingdom of God will be shown.  However, if you pay close attention to the language used in the verse, it says that they will see that the kingdom of God has come with power.  But what is meant by kingdom? And what is meant by they will see it?  It does not necessarily mean that a true earthly kingdom will rise and show the power of God.  “They will see” may very well just mean they will be made to believe in God’s power.  The only thing that is guaranteed from this verse is that some of the people standing there today would believe in the power of God’s kingdom before they died.  Another interpretation is that the Kingdom of God is not an earthly kingdom at all, rather a kingdom of the afterlife, where those who prepared themselves well in this life will have eternal life in the Kingdom of God.  This view is supported by other passages in the Gospel of Mark, such as in Mark 10:23.  Wealth is commonly seen as bad for religious people because it serves as an “earthly” distraction and temptation from doing good works and going to heaven.

Verses 2-8 of Chapter 9 of Mark focus on the transfiguration of Jesus on the Mountain.  The entire feeling of the passage is the overarching awe of the disciples at what is taking place in their presence.  This is shown best by when Peter asks Jesus if the apostles could build tents for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.  Rather than be able to accept the magnitude of the situation, Peter shows that he is utterly confused and terrified by what is happening by saying something so unnecessary and arbitrary.  When the cloud of God appears to them this only compounds their terror.  Once again, just as He did when Jesus was baptized, God proclaims Jesus his son.   This repetition of God’s proclamation of Jesus as his son is extremely significant because it gives less room for loose interpretation of who Jesus was to those reading the Gospel of Mark.  With God acknowledging Jesus as his rightful son on multiple occasions, it shows that he is much more significant than any other prophet or religious figure during that time.  Due to the many different religions and figures during those ancient times that were claiming such title as children of God or gods plural, the magnitude of this proclamation may very well have been lost upon the apostles and those who read this passage or heard this story later.  Yet, the repetition of God’s proclamation, and the  fact that God is speaking directly to him, something he had not done since the time of Moses, gives Jesus extreme legitimacy as the Messiah.

The final passage I analyzed explained the coming of Elijah.  Verses 9-13 is another situation among many, where Jesus tells the apostles or those he has helped to tell no one about what has happened until a later time, in this case after he has risen from the dead.  The apostles were very confused as to what he meant about raising from the dead, once again showing a seemingly inadequate understanding of the message Jesus is trying to convey.  The second part of the passage is about the coming of Elijah.  Common belief among Jewish scholars of the time was that Elijah was to herald the coming of the kingdom of God.  The Son of God cannot come without Elijah, which is why many Jews found it difficult to believe Jesus was the Son of God.  However, Elijah does come during the transfiguration.  Is this the coming of Elijah that was prophecied?  The author of the Gospel of Mark, by the way he portrays Jesus’s behavior explaining this to his disciples in this scene, seems to believe just that.

In a larger contextual sense, this passage comes directly after Jesus foretells his death and resurrection to the disciples for the first time.  They are extremely confused about what he means there as well, with Peter even rebuking him for his words.  The transfiguration almost seems like it is a declaration that what he has said will come to pass, a great showing of his power and glory.  Directly after the selected passage Jesus performs another miracle, casting a demon out of a boy and then again foretells about his death, an extremely significant repetition, even though the disciples are still confused about what he means.

The transfiguration, and the passages I included with it, give a lot of legitimacy to the assertion that Jesus is the Messiah to whoever was present there or heard the story after.  This is because he is seen in the presence of Moses and Elijah, arguably the most important Jewish prophets of all time.  Being with them would have given many Jews strong reason to believe that he was the true Son of God.  What is interesting about this is he orders all of them never to speak about what has happened until after he has risen from the dead, adding to the overall theme of secrecy that Mark’s Jesus seems to wish for.  He does not choose to use his miracles as public spectacles and a reason for people to believe in him.  Instead, he chose to preach to earn the followers he had, unlike the interpretation of Jesus shown in the Gospel of John.

In Art-

 

The Transfiguration is an extremely popular biblical scene for artists to depict, and has been throughout history.  The most common themes in these beautiful pieces of art is that Jesus and the prophets Moses and Elijah appear as larger than life as to  show how important they are, while the disciples are smaller and in a general state of awe, confusion, or terror.  Jesus and the prophets have their importance emphasized in other ways as well.  They are at the top, the focal point of the paintings, and are usually also shimmering or glowing with light to show their divinity.  In many pieces, such as these examples, the disciples show their confusion through bodily contortions, cowering away and shielding their eyes from the spectacle.

Works Cited/Credit for Art pieces

http://2x2virtualchurch.com/2013/02/05/teaching-the-transfiguration-through-art/