Elephantine, Leontopolis, and Gnosticism

Elephantine, Leontopolis, and Gnosticism April 5, 2020

There’s so much that deserves to be said, and deserves to be better known, about ancient Israel’s religious traditions prior to the monotheistic revolution that gave birth to Deuteronomy and the Torah, as well as the persistence of those traditions into later times. I hope in the near future to explore aspects of this in things I am writing. I believe there is a connection to the origins of Gnosticism, and will explain why as soon as I can turn my attention to doing so in greater detail. There was supposed to be a conference at which I would have presented on this, but it ended up not happening as originally planned, although it has been rescheduled and so will hopefully still happen. But this is also included as part of the outline of a book project I have begun, and so I will get to it sooner or later. Running a very brief summary of my thinking on this topic by several Mandaeans in Australia when I visited there recently, they thought my proposal made sense. That’s encouraging, but there’s much more to be done if this is to become a proper academic hypothesis.

In the meantime, here are a number of recent articles about the temples that Judaeans had in Egypt, as well as other closely related subjects:

The Forgotten Temple

There was also a great article in JBL about the traditions from Elephantine. See too:

Review: “Becoming Diaspora Jews: Behind the Story of Elephantine” by Karel van der Toorn

From Deborah Sawyer, Women and Religion p.74:

The inscription from Leontopolis is included in Bernadette Brooten’s seminal work on this type of archaeological evidence. On the inscription, dated 7 June 28 BCE, is written, ‘Marin, priestess [hierissa]’. It could be that the Greco-Roman environment, particularly that of Egypt, the home of the Isis cult, did influence Jewish practice to the extent of allowing women of priestly families to function as priests.

The full text of the inscription can be found here:

Marin, priestess

Contrast: Why there are no Israelite priestesses

No Such Thing as ‘Gnosticism’?

The temple of Onias in AJR

In the era of the first temple, another temple outside of Jerusalem was in use

A summary of papers from a recent conference that touches on this and related matters.

Judaeans and Goddesses at Elephantine

The Queen of Heaven

The Sun God in the Synagogue

New finds from ancient Egyptian temple


From the Archaeology magazine blog: Canaanite temple, temple in Israel/Judah, Egyptian artifacts from Cairo .

What We Lost When We Became Monotheists by Ivy Helman

Gnosticism in Postwar German Philosophy: An Interview with Willem Styfhals


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