"In contrast to the ancient deities of Egypt,
Serapis was a late comer among the gods of Eygpt. His cult seems to have been
founded in Alexandria by Ptolemy I before 283
- David Magie1
Mystery of Serapis
"In the city on the borders of Egypt which boasts
Alexander III of Macedonia as its founder,
Serapis and Isis are worshiped with a reverence that is almost fanatical.
Evidence that the sun, under the name of Serapis, is the object of all
this reverence is either the basket set on the head of the god or the figure of
a three-headed creature placed by his statue.
The middle head of this
figure, the largest, represents a
lion; on the right a dog
raises its head with a gentle and fawning air; and on the left the neck ends in
the head of a ravening wolf.
All three beasts are joined together by the
coils of a serpent whose head returns to the god's
right hand which keeps
the monster in check." - Macrobius, Saturnalia
"When Egypt became
the kingdom of the Ptolemies, they found a thousand year old culture with a
flourishing religiosity focused on the Pharaoh.
In order to establish a
stable power base in the country, the foreign rulers had to respond to the
needs of their Egyptian subjects, who made up most of the population of their
For their official public image, the Ptolemies therefore
assumed not only the Hellenistic portrayal of a basileus, but they also
became Egyptian Pharaohs." - Stefan Pfeiffer
The cult of the
Apis bull started at the
very beginning of Egyptian history as a fertility god connected to grain and
In the land of
Canaan the Apis bull was known as Baal.
Osirapis was the sacred
ascended bull of Memphis after its death according to the hieroglyphic texts
which were found on stelae and other objects in the Serapeum at
Serapis was a synthetic deity derived from the
worship of the Egyptian
Osiris and Apis
(Osiris + Apis = Oserapis/Serapis).
Greek and Roman authors have much to
say about Apis, the marks by which the black bull-calf was recognized,
the manner of his conception by a
ray from heaven, his house at Memphis with court for disporting himself,
the mode of prognostication from his actions, the mourning at his death, his
costly burial, and rejoicing throughout the country when
a new Apis (or Lama) is
The Apis bull, a manifestation
of Pharaoh, symbolized the king's courageous heart, great strength, virility,
and fighting spirit.
Auguste Mariette's excavation of the Serapeum of
Saqqara revealed the tombs of over sixty animals, ranging from the time of
Amenhotep III to that of the Ptolemaic dynasty.
Each animal was buried
in a separate tomb with a chapel built above.
century BC Herodotus equates the
Egyptian god Osiris and the Greek god Dionysus.
III of Macedonia founds Alexandria.
Alexandria becomes not
only a center of Hellenism but also
home to the largest Hebrew community in the world.
Traditions of the Hebrews is codified and recorded in the Mishnah in Mishnaic
Hebrew with some parts in Aramaic.
Ptolemy I succeeds
Alexander III of Macedonia and assumes
the traditional title of
Soter I (Ptolemy the Savior)
promotes Serapis while adding Hellenistic overtones most notable in the use of
a human headed idol rather
than an animal headed idol like Anubus.
The followers of Serapis
endorse him as the patron of Alexandria.
The composite term Serapis is
found around the start of the first century BC, for example in Aegyptiaca by
Hecataeus of Abdera, and in works by Leon of Pella.
intended that the new god should have universal appeal in an increasingly
In consequence, Serapis had more than 200
localized names, including (according to correspondence of
Emperor Hadrian) Christ!
Ptolemy put all the resources
of the state behind the promotion and sponsorship of an official cult.
Major temples of the god were built at Alexandria and Memphis.
The Serapeum in
Alexandria itself blended Egyptian gigantism with the grace and beauty of
Serapeum grew into a vast complex, one of the grandest monuments of pagan
civilization." - Kenneth Humphreys
At the time of the birth of
Jesus of Nazareth the
Gnostic Mystery of the Serapis, the Serapeum, was in the
Catechetical School of the
Library of Alexandria.
"When in ancient times a pestilence arose
in Egypt, the common people ascribed their troubles to the workings of a divine
agency; with many strangers dwelling in their midst and practicing different
rites of religion, their own traditional observances in honor of the gods had
fallen into disuse.
Hence the natives of the land surmised that unless
they removed the foreigners, their troubles would never be resolved.
aliens were driven from the country. The most outstanding and active among them
banded together and were cast ashore in Greece; their leaders were notable men,
chief among them being Danaus and Cadmus.
The greater number were driven
into what is now called Judaea, which is not far distant from Egypt.
The colony was headed by a man called Moshe Rabbenu, outstanding both
for his wisdom and for his courage.
taking possession of the Land
of Cannan he founded Jerusalem.
the temple that they hold in chief veneration,
instituted their forms of
worship and ritual, drew up laws and ordered political institutions.
Moshe Rabbenu divided
them into twelve tribes, since this is regarded as the most perfect number
corresponding to the number of months a year.
He had no images of gods,
being of the opinion God is not in human form;
the Heaven that surrounds the
earth is alone divine, and rules the universe.
The sacrifices that
he established differ from those of other nations, as does their way of living,
for as a result of their own expulsion from Egypt he introduced
a kind of misanthropic and
inhospitable way of life." - Aegyptiaca by Hecataeus of Abdera
Gnostic Mystery of the Serapis included:
Humanities Savior is the Son
of the Creator = the Creator made flesh;
Father of the Savior(s) resides
in heaven while the mother is a mortal virgin.
Serapis' birth was
prophesized by a
star in the heavens.
Serapis was born in a shed
before three shepherds.
Followers of Serapis are
born again through
the rites of
Serapis miraculously turned water into
wine at the marriage ceremony.
powerless to perform
miracles in his own
Serapis rides into town on a donkey
while people wave palm leaves.
Serapis had 12 disciples.
Accused of licentious behavior
Serapis is hung on a tree.
Serapis dies at the Vernal Equinox as a
sacrifice for the sins of the world,
descends to hell after bodily
death, and on the third day his tomb is visited
by three female followers, he rises from the dead and ascends to
Serapis death and
celebrated by a ritual meal
of bread and wine, which symbolize his body and blood.
Gnostic mystery schools existed
in the eastern Mediterranean during the late classical antiquity period,
including the Eleusinian,
Dionysian, Orphic and Mithraic mysteries as well as the Mystery of
Some of the many divinities that the Romans nominally adopted
from other cultures also came to be worshiped in the
Gnostic mysteries - for instance
Egyptian Isis, Thracian/Phrygian Sabazius and Phrygian
heart of the
of Christ is the myth of a dying and resurrecting god taking human form, an
Avatar, known by different names in different cultures:
- in Egypt
Osiris and later
- in Greece Dionysus;
- in Italy
- in Sumeria
dying and resurrecting god had been
popular throughout the ancient
world for centuries and carried many local names but was mostly seen as a
Bull as seen in the Canaanite
god of fertility Baal. (Age of Taurus)
It was the cross pollination
with Hellenism, which always
modeled the gods in human form, that allowed, first, the Alexandrian
followers of Serapis and, then, the
Essenes to model the
Dying and Resurrecting God
on, first, the Greek ruler Ptolemy I, and, then, Jesus of Nazareth.
name 'Osiris-Dionysus' was
sometimes used to denote the universal
composite nature of reality in much the same way that the term Serapis was
used before being replace by the term
(Christus) was another name for the Egyptian god,
Chrestus may be translated as
for a new State religion
to unite the far flung reaches of the
Roman Empire, sees a cross in
the sky and cobbles together
Mystery of Serapis
Mystery of Mithras
Mishnah generated by
the Hebrews in Alexandria becomes the
Tales and sayings of Jesus become the Synoptic
Presbyter pens the Gospel of John and Revelation.
Writings of Saul of Tarsus, the
Father of Christianity are
narrative is hermeneutically unified by
1. Magie, David. "Egyptian Deities in
Asia Minor in Inscriptions and on Coins." American Journal of
Archaeology, vol. 57, no. 3, 1953, pp. 163187. JSTOR,
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