THE ETERNALLY BURNING
The Structure of Theocracy in the Ancient Near East
and the Scholastic Trauma of Europe
Approaches towards an
Egypto-Judaeo-Christian Anthropology of Religion
by Nold Egenter
Despite clear historic relationships both Christian and Jewish theology keep up a deep ditch between the religion of Ancient Egypt and Jewish religion in regard to basic theological questions. In contrast to this scientifically questionable attitude the present study hints to existing connections between the two religious systems. The dominantly constitutional character of early religion is uncovered.
Did Moses use the Amun cult of the Egyptian New Empire as a model for his theocratic constitution of the Hebrews? The highly abstracted verbal form of his writing disconnects the imperial cult from the traditional Egyptian system of local and regional cults, which have developed as physically represented territorial cults over thousands of years from predynastic village cults. They were the basis, the 'conditio sine qua non' of the Egyptian imperial cult. However, in spite of the abstracted verbal form, the territorio-legal character of the Ancient Testament has remained very close to the theocratic constitutions of the type widespread in Ancient Near Eastern states and Egypt. Not surprisingly these aspects of territorial politics have preserved also in Christian religion, particularly in Roman Catholicism.
At the Nicaean council in the year 325 the emperor Constantine propagated the fusion of popular Christian movements with the ancient Jewish theocratic constitution. Christ became State God of the Roman empire for about 80 years. After the breakdown of the western part of the Roman empire the Roman church managed to revitalise the ancient concept of an absolute theocracy. Historically it produced three important disputes: the Identity dispute, the universality quarrel and the investiture conflict. Essentially using the philosophy of Neoplatonism, these disputes were decided powerfully by the church. It enabled the Roman church to politically control medieval Europe more than thousand years with its clerical 'supra- imperial' constitution.
However, at the beginning of the 14th century (1302), the French King Henry the IVth, also called 'The Beautiful' had no tolerance for this type of spiritually manipulated power games and put pope Boniface into prison. The history of the Middle Ages was at its end.
But, later, in the age of the discoveries, a new development played an important role: astronomy. At first the church fought fiercely against the new sciences of the universe (Copernic, Galilei, Bruno), because the results were opposed to the Biblical geocentrism.
But finally the concept of the scientific universe became useful for the Vatican. The very ancient polar unit of 'heaven and earth' now suddenly was focussed on the whole globe. The territorial aspirations of the church were extended autonomously. Rome became the centre of the world. As a result - above all in Europe, but also in the course of the discoveries made in America, Asia and Africa - Rome gained strong geopolitical influence through its hierarchically organized structure and its strong influences on education, later particularly also through its worldwide network of church controlled universities.
In those countries where Christianity is not the most important religion like India, China or Japan, Christians still are engaged in missionary work. They work for the West, advocate Western upbringing, Christian ethics and religion.
Paradoxically this kind of mission profits from the modern enlightened attitude which takes religion merely as an individual right for 'belief'. However, if the matter is paired with democracy the situation becomes politically problematic. Christian converts will always support Christian politics according to Western ideals.
For centuries Christians swarmed out into all parts of the world, to convince others of the supreme Euro-Western morality. One did not hesitate to devaluate other cultures and their worldviews. Foreign religions were considered as primitive, corresponding beliefs were classified as 'superstitions' and the like. Whole populations were called heretics. Their cults were described in absurd distortions, their contents were devalued as 'fetishes', 'idols' etc. < 1> .
The present investigation focusses on these problems. Paradoxically the study finds exactly the same 'primitive element' in the Ancient Testament: the 'Eternally burning Thorn Bush'. It is found at a very important place. It is intimately related to God's order transmitted to Moses to found the Hebrew state. It is evident, that this find questions the whole Western concept of religion fundamentally.
In the framework of a global anthropology of culture it is assumed, that this small publication indicates a turning point. Anthropology with its modern time depth of millions of years and with its new methods focussed on man questions the present fixations of our historical methods, particularly if they support nationalistic or religious fundamentalisms.
Based on a newly reconstructed prehistory this new anthropology will understand man in new ways globally and beyond cultural specifications. Throughout the globe man has used constitutions to secure his life in space. Social structures, religions, art, all what we call culture can be derived from this theocratic type of constitution. But only if we understand these institutions in their transcultural equivalence, neutrally and objectively, will we overcome the agressive ethnocentrisms which are controlling and devastating the world of today. < 2>
1 To what extent enormous distortions are still possible today is shown by the wandering exhibition 2000 organised by the theologian Hans Küng (Tübingen). Under the title "World Religions, world Peace, world Ethics" he tries to form a syncretistic "World Ethic" based on 6 religions (Hinduism, Chinese religion, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam). This is highly arbitrarily and discriminating if we consider Japan: 110 millions of Shintoists are simply excluded from the qualification to have ethical values!
2 In this sense this essay is also critically opposed to Samuel P. Huntington's regressive book,' The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order'. With its outdated 19th century historistic terms (civilisation) and its regressive theories (e.g. Oswald Spengler's highly questionable 'morphology of world history', his organizistically founded 'Decline of the Occident' and Arnold Toynbee‘s questionable 'ascent and decay model' of world cultures) Huntington tries to legitimate the fundamentalism launched by the former US president Ronald Reagan presenting it as the basis of a new world order.