Early Dynastic Period In Egypt › Easter › Ptolemy's Letter to Flora » Origins and History

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Early Dynastic Period In Egypt › Ancient History

Definition and Origins

by Joshua J. Mark
published on 22 January 2016
Step Pyramid of Saqqara (Charlesjsharp)
The Early Dynastic Period in Egypt (c. 3150 - c. 2613 BCE) is the beginning of the historical era of the country during which the regions of Upper Egypt (south) and Lower Egypt (north) were united as one country under a centralized government.During this period the divine rule of the kings began and a recognizable Egyptian culture, including the development of writing, arts, and sciences developed. The title ` pharaoh ' was not used during this period; rulers were referred to as `kings' and addressed as `your majesty'.
This era followed the Predynastic Period in ancient Egypt (c. 6000 - c. 3150 BCE) and was followed by the period known as the Old Kingdom (c. 2613 - 2181 BCE). While these dates are not arbitrary they should not be understood as any kind of demarcation ending one era and beginning another. They are used to help clarify the long history of Egypt by dividing its story into sections of cohesive development. The line between some periods in ancient Egyptian history does seem quite clear while, with others (such as that between the Predynastic and Early Dynastic periods) it is blurred. Dates should be understood to be approximations the further back in time one travels in Egyptian history.

EGYPT'S UNIFICATION & FIRST KING

According to the chronology of Manetho (3rd century BCE), the first king of Egypt was Menes, a king of Upper Egypt possibly from the city of Thinis (or Hierkanopolis), who overcame the other city states around him and then went on to conquer Lower Egypt. This king's name is known primarily through written records such as Manetho's chronology and the Turin King List, however, it is not corroborated by any extensive archeological evidence and scholars now believe the first king may have been a man named Narmer who peacefully united Upper and Lower Egypt at some point c. 3150 BCE. This claim is contested owing to the Narmer Palette (an ancient inscribed slab) which depicts a king, positively identified as Narmer, as a military figure conquering a region which is clearly Lower Egypt. Historian Marc Van de Mieroop comments on this:
That Egypt was created through military means is a basic concept expressed in the art of the period. A sizeable set of stone objects, including cermonial mace-heads and palettes, contain scenes of war and fighting between men, between animals, and between men and animals.Whereas in the past Egyptologists read the scenes of war literally as records of actual events, today they prefer to see them as stereotypical statements of kingship and the king's legitimacy (33).
This new method of interpreting ancient inscriptions, however valuable some may consider it, does not mean such interpretations are accurate. The argument against such interpretations asks why, if these inscriptions are to be taken symbolically, others of later periods - such as those of Rameses the Great at the Battle of Kadesh - continue to be read literally as historical record. Van de Mieroop comments further, stating, "This new approach makes it impossible to date the unification of Egypt or attribute it to a specific individual on the basis of these representations" (33-34) but notes that, whatever the case regarding the first ruler, "the art of the period shows that the Egyptians linked unification with conflict" (34). Scholar Douglas J. Brewer, on the other hand, does not see any problem in regarding the inscriptions symbolically. The name `Menes" means "He who endures" and could possibly be a title, not a personal name, in which case there is no difficulty in identifying the first king as Narmer `who endured'.
Narmer Palette

Narmer Palette

The name `Menes' has also been found on an ivory inscription from Naqada associated with Hor-Aha, which could mean the title was passed down or that Hor-Aha was the first king. Brewer notes that these ancient inscriptions, such as the Narmer Palette, perpetuate "a culturally accepted scenario and, therefore, should perhaps be regarded as a monument commemorating an achieved state of unity rather than depicting the process of unification itself" (141). To scholars such as Brewer, the means by which unification came about are not as important as the fact of unification itself. The details of the event, like those of any nation's origins, may have been largely embellished upon by later writers. Brewer writes:
Menes probably never existed, at least as the individual responsible for all the attributed feats. Rather he is most likely a compilation of real-life individuals whose deeds were recorded through oral tradition and identified as the work of a single person, thereby creating a central hero figure for Egypt's unification. Like the personalities of the Bible, Menes was part fiction, part truth, and the years have masked the borderline, creating a legend of unification (142).
Unification, Brewer (and others) claim was "most likely a slow process stimulated by economic growth" (142). Upper Egypt seems to have been more prosperous and their wealth enabled them to systematically absorb the lands of lower Egypt over time as they found they needed more resources for their population and for trade. Whether the king who united the country was Narmer or someone of another name, this king lay the foundation for the rise of one of the greatest civilizations of the ancient world.
Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt

EGYPT'S FIRST DYNASTY

The First Dynasty of Egypt (c. 3150 - c. 2890 BCE) was founded by Menes/Narmer after the unification of the country. The great Egyptologist Flinders Petrie (1853-1942 CE) accepted Narmer as the first king of the first dynasty claiming that the two names designated one man. Flinders Petrie, and others following him, claim that whether Narmer united Egypt by force is considered irrelevant in that it is almost certain he had to maintain the kingdom through military means and this would account for his depiction in inscriptions such as the Narmer Palette.

PHARAOH NARMER INITIATED LARGE BUILDING PROJECTS AND UNDER HIS RULE URBANIZATION INCREASED.

Narmer (probably from Thinis) married the princess Neithhotep of Naqada in an alliance to strengthen ties between the two cities. He led military expeditions through lower Egypt to put down rebellions and expanded his territory into Canaan and Nubia. He initiated large building projects and under his rule urbanization increased. The cities of Egypt never reached the magnitude of those in Mesopotamia perhaps owing to the Egyptians' recognition of the threats such development posed.Mesopotamian cities were largely abandoned due to overuse of the land and pollution of the water supply while Egyptian cities, such as Xois (to choose a random example), existed for millenia. Although later developments in urban development ensured the cities' continuation, the early efforts of kings like Narmer would have provided the model.
It is possible that Neithhotep ruled on her own following Narmer's death but this claim is far from universally accepted. Her tomb, discovered in the 19th century CE, was on par with a king's and suggested a status greater than simply a monarch's wife. Further evidence for her rule is her name inscribed in serakhs from the time which was a practice reserved only for a ruler, not a spouse. Still, her reign is far from clearly attested.
Narmer is instead thought to have been succeeded by his son Hor-Aha c. 3100 BCE (though some claim the two are the same person) who continued his father's military expansion and increased trade. He was especially interested in religion and the concept of the afterlife and the mastaba tomb (a house for the deceased) was developed under his reign. Hor-Aha was succeeded by his son Djer in c. 3050 BCE and continued the same policies as his predecessors. His son, Djet (c. 3000 BCE) married the princess Merneith and, upon his death, she is thought to have assumed control of the country. It is unclear whether she reigned as regent for her young son Den or ruled as queen but, either way, her reign marks the first time a woman is attested as ruling in ancient Egypt.
Den

Den

Her son, Den (c. 2990 BCE) is considered the greatest king of the First Dynasty and ruled for fifty years. His reputation as an effective king comes from his improvements to the country's economy, military conquests, and the stability of his reign as evidenced by lavish building projects and intricate works of art. Den is the first ruler to be depicted wearing the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt, clearly indicating a united nation under his rule. Den was followed by two other kings, Anedjib and then Semerkhet, who experienced difficult reigns marked by insurrection. The dynasty ended with the reign of Qa'a whose successors fought for the throne and were subdued by Hotepsekhmenwy who founded the Second Dynasty.

EGYPT'S SECOND DYNASTY

The Second Dynasty (c. 2890 - c. 2670 BCE) was marred by internal conflict and a lack of, or confusion of, records. None of the rulers of the Second Dynasty have verifiable dates and many of the names of kings seem to be repetitions of earlier rulers.Hotepsekhmenwy, whose name means "two powerful ones are at peace" is a perfect example of this problem. It would make sense, because of his name, that he came to power after subduing the princes who fought for the throne after Qa'a but his name is inscribed on the entranceway to Qa'a's tomb meaning that, 1. he was the ruler responsible for burying Qa'a and, 2. he already had that name before the war over succession broke out. The argument that the war started immediately after Qa'a's death and was crushed quickly by Hotepsekhmenwy is not supported by the archaeological evidence or the Egyptian culture which would not have allowed the king's body to lie in wait to be buried for so long. It is possible that Hotepsekhmenwy had already tried to resolve the differences between the princes prior to Qa'a's death but this is just speculation.

RANEB (NEBRA) WAS THE FIRST KING TO LINK HIS NAME TO THAT OF THE GODS AND SO ESTABLISH THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE KING AND THE DIVINE.

Even so, Hotepsekhmenwy is credited with bringing peace to Egypt upon his ascent to the throne; even though that peace was short-lived. His reign was characterized by unrest and rebellion. He was followed by Raneb (also known as Nebra) who was the first to link his name to that of the gods and so establish the relationship between the king and the divine. His successor, Nynetjer and the following, Senedji, continued to deal with the civil problems of the nation and little else is known of them.Senedji was succeeded by Peribsen (also known as Seth-Peribsen) who is a figure of some controversy among scholars.
Peribsen is the first king to separate himself from the Horus cult and embrace that of Set. This is significant because, in Egyptian religion, Horus the Younger was the son of the great god Osiris who defeated Set in order to bring harmony to the world. As harmonious balance was an important value to the ancient Egyptians, it seems strange that a king would decide to align himself with the forces associated with chaos. There is no satisfactory answer as to why Peribsen chose to do this. Early scholars believed that he was the first monotheist who declared Set the only god but this has been disproven by evidence of the worship of many gods during his reign. As his name is only recorded in Upper Egypt, there is also a theory that he chose to align with Set for political reasons; to distance himself from the Horus cult of Lower Egypt. Whatever the reason, he is considered a good king in that trade, the economy, religious practice, and the arts all flourished under his reign. The first complete sentence written in ancient Egypt was found in his tomb and reads: "The golden one, he of Ombos, hath unified and handed over the two realms to his son, the king of Lower and Upper Egypt, Peribsen" meaning that Set (he of Ombos) had blessed Peribsen's rule. The sentence also indicates that Egypt was unified under Peribsen's reign and the claim that he aligned himself with Set to distance himself from the Horus cult of Lower Egypt is untenable.
Seal of Peribsen

Seal of Peribsen

Peribsen was succeeded by Khasekhemwy, possibly his son, who continued the building projects of his predecessors and is thought to have brought the two regions of Egypt again under central rule or, at least, strengthened unification. His is best known for his monuments at Hierakonopolis and Abydos and as the father of the pharaoh Djoser.

EGYPT'S THIRD DYNASTY

Djoser's Step Pyramid at Saqqara is the first known pyramid built in Egypt. The Third Dynasty has been traditionally linked to the Fourth and the period known as the Old Kingdom because of its association with the first pyramids. Recent scholarship, however, has placed it at the end of the Early Dynastic Period because of the greater similarity in culture and technology with the earlier period than the latter.
The mastaba tomb was developed during the First Dynasty and the Step Pyramid at Saqqara is an elaborate, `stacked' mastaba, not a true pyramid such as those found at Giza. Djoser's pyramid, even so, is a masterpiece of technology.Designed by the vizier Imhotep, the pyramid was created as the eternal home for the king and later pyramids would follow its basic design.

DJOSER'S REIGN BROUGHT THE STABILITY NECESSARY FOR LARGE BUILDING PROJECTS AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ARTS.

Djoser (c. 2670 BCE) built so many monuments that scholars have long held his reign to have lasted at least 30 years but, most likely, he ruled closer to 20. He initiated military campaigns to Sinai and maintained the cohesion of Egypt, resulting in the stability necessary for his building projects and the development of the arts. He was succeeded by Sekhemket who was followed by Khaba, both of whom also built pyramids, the Buried Pyramid and the Layer Pyramid, as well as other monuments.The Third Dynasty ends with the reign of Huni (c. 2630 - 2613 BCE) about whom little is known. Upon his death, he was succeeded by Snefru who founded the Fourth Dynasty which begins the period known as the Old Kingdom.

LEGACY

The Early Dynastic Period in Egypt was a time of revolutionary advancements in culture. The calendar was created, writing developed, knowledge of the sciences, arts, and agriculture all advanced, as did the kind of technology required to build monuments such as the Step Pyramid. Just as importantly, religious sensibility developed to a high degree; a value which would inform the rest of the history of Egypt. The concept of ma'at, harmony, became widely valued during this time and the understanding began to grow that life on earth was only one part of an eternal journey. This understanding, which was only possible for a people living under a stable government who did not have to worry about their personal safety or livelihood, led, according to the historian Bunson, "to an emerging sense of the `other' in the world, to the concept of eternity and spiritual values. Egyptians were taught that they were truly one with the divine and with the cosmos" (78). The Egyptian belief in eternity, and in the eternal life of every living thing, would become the defining characteristic of their culture and inform every monument, temple, and building they would create; especially the great pyramids which have come to be synonymous with Egypt.

Easter › Ancient History

Definition and Origins

by Cristian Violatti
published on 31 March 2014
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Piero della Francesca)
Easter is the Christian holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christian tradition links the date of the Easter celebration to the Hebrew calendar based on a combination of astronomical events. Easter and the Jewish Passover festival are strongly connected. The passion of Jesus Christ in the gospels is often presented with the festival of Passover as a background.

ETYMOLOGY

There are two possibilities for the source of the term “Easter”. One is that the name comes from the Saxon fertility goddess Eostre (sometimes spelled Eastre or Ostara). The legend goes that Eostre owned an egg-laying rabbit or hare and the story symbolized fertility and life. In the 8th century CE work De temporum ratione, written by an English monk named Bede, the author claims that, during the month of April, the pagan Anglo-Saxon community used to have feasts to honour Eostre, but that custom had died out by the time of his writing, replaced by the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. Another accepted origin of the term Easter is that it comes from the German “Ostern”, which comes from the Norse word “Eostrus”, meaning 'Spring'.
The pagan holidays of the goddess Eostre (or Ostara) celebrated fertility and new life: The egg symbolized perfection and wholeness in its natural state and the rabbit was a symbol of fertility. For many cultures, the beginning of the spring season was a symbol of rebirth. This relates to the fact that after the darkness of winter, nature gains a new strength that was symbolized as the ascent of life from the realm of darkness to the world of light.

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN PASSOVER & EASTER

Romance languages derived the term Easter from the Greek “Pascha” (Pâques in French, Pasqua in Italian, Páscoa in Portuguese, Pascua in Spanish), which comes from the Hebrew “Pesah”, meaning 'Passover', the Jewish celebration which early Jewish-Christian communities used to celebrate jointly with Easter.

IT IS SAID THAT THE CONFUSION IN THOSE DAYS WAS SUCH THAT EASTER WAS SOMETIMES KEPT TWICE IN ONE YEAR. (BEDE, C. 730 CE)

The first day of the festival of Passover is observed by the Jewish community on the fifteenth day of the month Nisan (March/April) and it commemorates the Exodus of the Hebrews from their captivity in Egypt (as related in the biblical Book of Exodus). Because in Judaism a day begins at dusk and lasts until the following dusk, the first day of Passover begins after dusk of the fourteenth of Nisan and ends at dusk of the fifteenth day of the month of Nisan, which is why one sometimes reads that Passover begins late on the fourteenth day of the month Nisan.
After many displays of power, so the Old Testament claims, the god of the Hebrews decided to kill all firstborns in Egypt in order to persuade the Egyptian pharaoh to release the Hebrews from their captivity. To avoid the slaughter of their own firstborns, the Hebrews had to observe a specific celebration. The Old Testament explains the origin of the Passover in Exodus 12.1-36 and it also includes the features involved in the celebration:
  1. On the tenth day of the month, the animal to be slaughtered was selected and set aside for safekeeping
  2. The animal had to be a flawless one year old goat or lamb (Deuteronomy 16.2 includes calves). The animal was slaughtered on the fourteenth day late in the afternoon.
  3. Some blood of the animal was smeared on the doorposts and lintels of the Hebrew houses. It was believed that God would bypass the homes marked this way during the slaughter of the firstborn.
  4. The animal was roasted whole. The flesh was eaten, along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, by members of the household. The meal was eaten in haste, with the participants dressed for flight.
  5. Any uneaten meat was to be burned next morning.
The Jewish community celebrates the Passover annually. From the standpoint of the New Testament and Christian theology, Jesus Christ is the Christian Passover victim (1 Cor. 5.7). Jesus Christ as the “Lamb of God” is stressed many times in the gospel of John (1.29; 1.36), and we also read that Jesus was crucified while the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in preparation for the feast (19.31). Also John 19.36 is directly connected to Exodus 12.46 where some Passover restrictions related to sacrificial lamb are described.

THE COUNCIL OF NICAEA: SETTING A SINGLE DATE FOR EASTER

The earliest Christians did not care much about accurately dating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, probably because they hoped their saviour would return soon enough. However, when Jesus failed to return as soon as they had hoped, a dating system for Easter became an important concern. This was, and still is, the holiest of Christian holidays. When to celebrate Easter was not a simple question. It was known that the event took place on a Friday, but one question remained: Which Friday?
The first problem in dating Easter was that Jesus Christ's resurrection occurred during the Jewish Passover and this celebration is calculated according to the phases of the moon (the lunar calendar). Therefore, the date for Passover (and of Easter) drifts against the solar cycle shifting every year. To accurately synchronize the moon's phases with the solar year was a task beyond the astronomical competence of early Christians.
Some early Christian communities celebrated Easter on the night of the fourteenth day of the Jewish month of Nisan, on whatever day of the week that day fell. In Rome, however, Easter took place only on a Sunday. The first record of this discrepancy is dated as early as 154 CE, when a bishop named Polycarp of Smyrna discussed these differences with Anicetus, the head of the Roman church. By that time, Sunday had become the Christian day for worship, since Jesus Christ's resurrection was believed to have happened on this day of the week.
Christianity, during the early days, behaved less as a single unified religion than as a collection of different sects and denominations following the same basic patterns but differing on many different points, such as when to celebrate Easter. It was, therefore, not easy to agree on a single date for celebrating Easter. So, when the Roman emperor Constantineorganized the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, one of the key concerns was to determine a date for celebrating Easter that would be the same across the board for all Christians. In other words, the challenge for Constantine was not so much to determine a dating method for Easter, but to get all the different Christian communities to celebrate Easter on the exact same day.
The solution agreed upon during the Council of Nicaea sounds easier than it actually was: Easter will fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox [from the perspective of the Northern Hemisphere], but shall never fall at the beginning of the Jewish Passover. Constantine ordered that Easter should be “everywhere celebrated on one and the same day”. This solution, however, was far from an end to the controversy.
Despite the agreement reached during the Council, a number of challenges were still ongoing:
  1. Because the calculation for Easter was linked to the Jewish calendar and given that the Jewish calendar is lunisolar while the Roman calendar was a solar calendar, this resulted in a different date for Easter every year, a confusing notion for most people.
  2. To accurately determine the occurrence of the spring equinox in advance required a certain competence in astronomy that exceeded the skills of average scientists at that time. Due to the lack of scientists knowledgeable enough in the movements of the sun, earth and moon, most churches fixed an arbitrary date for the spring equinox: March 21.
  3. The calendar used by Rome at that time, the Julian calendar, had been established by Julius Caesar in 46 BCE and was based on a year of 365 1/4 days, which means that it had an annual error of 11 minutes. This meant that since Easter was calculated on the basis of a fixed date for the spring equinox (March 21), and since due to the 11 minutes error the calendar was drifting backwards at a rate of roughly 1 day every 128 years, the Easter calculation could never be accurate. In fact, the Julian calendar was already three days behind by 325 CE.
As time went by, the Easter calculation became even more confusing. In relation to this, the English monk Bede, around 730 CE, wrote, "It is said that the confusion in those days was such that Easter was sometimes kept twice in one year." (Bede, cited in Duncan)
Bede, who lived in the early Middle ages, knew something that most people did not know in his time: that the official dating of Easter was an error due to the fact that the official calendar was flawed. This problem would persist until 1582 CE, the year Pope Gregory XIII amended the calendar.

THE “DYING AND REVIVING GOD" MOTIF

Some scholars have pointed out the close resemblance between Easter and its surrounding symbolism with the mythological motif known as the “Dying and Reviving God”. There are many stories in world mythology about gods that either die or are sacrificed and return to life for the good of the people or the land. In Egypt one finds Osiris, who is killed by his brother and revived by Isis, his wife. Adonis is the spring god of the Phoenicians, who became popular in Greece and Rome as a human with whom Aphrodite fell in love, who also died and returned to life. Odin, the Norse god who hangs himself on the World Tree to gain knowledge, is yet another example. Attis, the Phyrgian god; Dionysos, in Greece; Baal, in Ugaritic Canaan ; Inanna or Dumuzi in Mesopotamian mythology, are all examples of dying and reviving gods who return from death;they all undergo a ritual of death and renewal which brings life to others.
The Dying and Reviving God motif is closely linked to the more universal motif known as “The hero's journey” or “The hero's descent into the underworld” where the god's or hero's apparent death is followed by a glorious resurrection that causes some sort of benefit to mankind.

Ptolemy's Letter to Flora › Antique Origins

Ancient Civilizations

by John S. Knox
published on 22 July 2016
Although many Christians, theologians, and denominations have advocated for the idea that all biblical texts within the canon are one in spirit, authority, and ultimate authorship, not every reader of the Bible has come to the same conclusion, historically.During the formation of the early Christian church, some heterodox readers suggested that there was a potential juxtaposition between the God of the New Testament and the God of the Old Testament. As Harland states,
At this time, more and more Christians came from a non-Jewish background, and Christian theologians began to measure themselves against the teachings of secular Hellenistic philosophy. Many branches of Christianityhad to face this issue, the Gnostics no less than any other. (Harland, 306)
One such person was Ptolemy the Gnostic (also known as Ptolemaeus Gnosticus), who studied under the famous Gnostic teacher, Valentinius (c. 100 – c. 160 CE) and wrote a fascinating letter to his sister, Flora, discussing the integrity and authority of the scriptures.

LETTER TO FLORA

Unlike the traditionalist view that holds that everything in the Bible is inspired of God (and therefore supremely equal in value), Ptolemy, like the Gnostics, considered some texts more godly than others; his interpretation followed "the principles of a Gnostic view of reality" (Froehlich, 12). Their approach to the scriptures was very hierarchical with some scriptures countering others in regards to their authorship or origin. As these Gnostics read the scriptures, it appeared to them that some commands and ordinances were frequently in conflict, indicating possible corruption of the biblical texts. Thus, they were perplexed about how to correctly interpret or assign words to/of God.
Ptolemy wrote a letter to his sister, Flora, in which he detailed how he thought the New and Old Testament texts should be evaluated. To him, the scriptures that came from God in the New Testament was profoundly more authoritative than the Old Testament (even though it, too, had God's touch upon it). He writes,
The Law of God, pure and not mixed with inferiority, is the Decalogue, those ten sayings engraved on two tables, forbidding things not to be done and enjoining things to be done. These contains pure but imperfect legislation and required the completion made by the Savior. (Froehlich, 40)
However, unlike the New Testament texts, which he claimed came straight from the good God, the Old Testament texts were often tainted by human influence (or the Demiurge or Demiourgos ), which lessened their importance.
Moses Recieves the Law

Moses Recieves the Law

Challenging the radical literary critics, He writes, "For some say that it [the Mosaic Law] was laid down as law by God the Father. Others, however, leaning in the opposite direction, insist that it was ordained by the adversary, the destructive devil...Both sides are completely wrong" (Froehlich, 37). Ptolemy believed that the Old Testament law was a composite text created with authorship from God, Moses, and the elders of the people. God provided the Ten Commandments, Moses added to them to diminish the amount his people could sin, and the elders took over and changed it still, "legislating contrary to God" (Froehlich, 39).

CLASSIFICATION OF GOD'S LAWS

The true, good law was the one Jesus Christ purportedly received from God and handed to humanity in the New Testament.Supporting this position, Ptolemy states, "We shall draw the proofs of our statements from the words of our Savior, which alone can lead us without stumbling to the comprehension of that which is" (Froehlich, 38). Furthermore, showing his Gnostic influences, Ptolemy goes on to suggest that even God's laws can be divided into three hierarchical groups based on the opposition of spirit and flesh.

ACCORDING TO PTOLEMY, THE TRUE, GOOD LAW WAS THE ONE JESUS CHRIST PURPORTEDLY RECEIVED FROM GOD AND HANDED TO HUMANITY IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.

The first he deemed, "pure legislation" (Froehlich, 40) because it was not "entangled with evil" (Froehlich, 40) and was fulfilled through Jesus Christ. The second he considered "the legislation entangled with the inferior and with injustice" (Froehlich, 40) because it dealt primarily with inter-human relationships and which was "abolished because it was incongruous with his [Christ's] nature" (Froehlich, 40). The third group was made up of spiritually symbolic precepts that Jesus "transferred from the realm of sense perception and appearance to the realm of the spiritual and the invisible" (Froehlich, 40).
These were laws that had been metamorphosed into higher, grander ideals than they previously possessed. Thus, instead of circumcision of the flesh, after Jesus, one needed to experience the circumcision of the heart. As Ptolemy continues, the reader can sense a growing dichotomy between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Instead of one unified God made up of Father and Son, for the Gnostics, there existed a clear separation of deities and spiritual powers at work on the earth.

DEMIURGE

Controversial early church leaders like Ptolemy, Valentinius, and Marcion of Sinope (ca. 85 – ca. 160 CE), began to divide the scriptures as to what was authentically divine and what was corrupt. McGrath writes,
Marcion's core argument was that the 'God' of the Old Testament was not the same as that of the New Testament. The Old Testament God was seen as inferior, even defective, in the light of the Christian conception of God. There was no connection whatsoever between these deities. (21)
Marcion and the other Gnostics considered the Old Testament god to be the Demiourgos, or Demiurge, an "inferior deity to whom they ascribed the origins of the material universe, distinguishing him from the supreme God" (Livingstone, 164) and a supernatural concept that they borrowed/adapted from earlier Platonic thought. Somewhat ironically, Marcion's radical, disconnected vision of God, Jesus, Judaism, and the biblical story eventually earned him the title, 'The Greatest Heretic' by Justin Martyr (100–165 CE), who also promoted the idea of Seminal Logos, the seed of truth in all religions. Not surprisingly, Ptolemy's interpretation have also received harsh criticism by theologians through the centuries, because, as Fallon points out, "Ptolemy's conclusions take him to the very edge of metaphysics and myth" (Fallon, 306).
Creation

Creation

Regarding the Demiourgos, Ptolemy remarks,
He who stands in the middle between them [God and Jesus]...is neither good nor in any way evil or unjust...This god [the Demiourgos ] will be inferior to the perfect God and lower than his justice. He is begotten, not unbegotten, for one only is the unbegotten Father from whom all things are because in its proper way everything depends on him. (Froehlich, 43)

CONCLUSION

Long before institutional Christian definitions of faith such as the Nicene Creed (325 CE) and the Athanasian Creed (5th century CE), Ptolemy's assertions in his letter to Flora raised further questions on the notions of homoiousis (Gr. of similar substance), homoousis (Gr. of same substance), and the relationship between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Reading through Ptolemy's Letter to Flora, one can perceive the great influence that his Gnostic beliefs held over his interpretations. Due to the Gnostic condemnation of all things temporal and of/from/by the flesh in the physical world, it is no wonder that he considered some scripture and Jewish laws delivered through human hands to be suspect and "bound up in evil" (Fallon, 46). Ptolemy's questions, ruminations, and interpretations, as suggested in his Letter to Flora, may be reasonable considering the scope, composition, and complexity of the Hebrew and Greek biblical texts; however, with a deeper, more holistic reading, the integrity of the holy scriptures may also be reasonably argued based on scriptural evidence of God ( Yahweh ) utilizing even banal methods to achieve his extraordinary purpose(s).

LICENSE

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