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I have mentioned it to be my opinion, that by this term was denoted originally the Living God, the self-existent Being. And in this opinion I am confirmed by Plato, and many other Greek writers, who, whenever they allude to this Egyptian name, express it by the terms To Ov: which signify, by way of eminence, The Being; or, in other words---the great first cause. These writers derived their theology from Egypt: and from hence we may infer, that they knew well the purport of the name. This, I think, may be farther proved from the Coptic language; in which are undoubtedly to be found the remains of the ancient Egyptian. Here the same words, which the Greeks rendered or, and, denote both life and to live: to exist, and to be. They are expressed in the Coptic characters with a final aspirate one and wre Onh, and Onh with an omega: also with the рrefix, пш. Hence the terms I wn2 nens signify vita æterna. Plato therefore with great
1 Αυτο το ισον, αυτό το καλον, αυτό έκασον, ὁ εςι το Οr-Plato in Phædone, v. 1. p. 78.
T⚫ Oy. Plutarch Is. et Osiris, p. 352. A.
* See Coptic Lexicon published by Mr Woide, p. 189,
justice rendered the term in his own language by To Or, when he treated of the first cause, the Lord of Life: for the name among the Egyptians was perfectly analogous to ov, ovτa, εovтα, εival, among the Greeks. It was the name of the true God; of whom the Egyptians at first made the sun only a type. But when the substitute was taken for the original, it was then adapted to the luminary: at least, so far as that the city of On was called the city of the Sun: and the orb of day was worshipped as the living God. For I do not believe that the term On related literally to the sun; which I think is plain from its standing in need of explanation. wn, ЄTE OB&KI LÉPH пе. On which is the city of Phre, THE SUN: and in the Greek,--- Ων, ἡ εσιν Ηλιοπολις, On; which is Heliopolis. From hence we may justly infer, that the living God was originally worshipped under the semblance of the Sun. But the true name of the luminary, both among the ancient and modern Egyptians, was Ree. This may be farther proved from the name of his priest; who was stiled Potiphera, Potiphra, and Petiphre; which I do not imagine to be a proper name; for the former part of
Exodus i. 11. Sept.
the compound signified a priest; and the latter the Sun. It was expressed neтchpk, Petephre, by the authors of the Coptic version; and Πετεφρη ἱερευς in the time of the Greek version, and Pytah phry in the days of Moses. I have thought proper to state these things; as we may from hence perceive the purport of the injunction given to Moses, and explain those remarkable words---I am that I am; and I am hath sent thee.
Some farther Considerations upon these Words.
It is remarkable, that the Samaritan version accords implicitly with the original in this instance, and it is closely copied in the Vulgate, where the passage is rendered---Ego sum, qui
sum. But the Greek translation differs in the
*See Coptic Lexicon, p. 157. There were two words in the ancient Egyptian language, which denoted a priestПеTE and ON-They were probably two departments in the same office of priesthood: but their precise meaning cannot be now ascertained.
This person is said to be Pete-phre, Cohen On; that is, a priest of the Sun, who officiated at the city On, to distinguish him from a priest of the same order who might be of Moph, Theba, or any other place.
Genesis, ch. xli. ver. 45. and ver. 50.
mode of expression, and instead of-- Eya. ὁς ειμα which would afford the literal Eifels port, we meet with---Εγω ειμι, ὁ Ων. How came the authors of this version so industriously to vary from others? I answer; because they were Jews of Egypt, and knew the true object alluded to. And, as the Egyptian term on, the same as Ens, corresponded with the like word in Greek, they have preserved it in their translation, as from this correspondence of terms, they could give the true meaning of the original. In consequence of this, instead
of Εγω ειμι, ὁς ειμα which would have been the
obvious interpretation of I am that I am, they render it---Eyw ei ô Nv. I am the Ens, the truly existing being; the living God. And that we might not mistake the meaning of the term nv, used by the Seventy, and also by the Platonists, many learned persons have been at the pains further to explain it, and to shew, that by On was signified Ens Entium, the Being of Beings, the self-existent God. Hence Hesychius defines ὁ Ων, by θεος αει ζων, ύπαρxwv. God, who lives for ever; that exists everlastingly. We find the like in Suidas. O v, CεL WV, 805 nμwv. By On is denoted, the God
Exodus iii. 14.
that lives for ever, whom we acknowledge for our particular deity. The learned Alberti, in his notes to Hesychius, quotes from a manuscript Lexicon a passage to the same purpose. 'O Ων, ὁ ζων, ὁ ὑπαρχων, ὁ αει ων· τετεσι θεος. · By ó this term is meant the Being who lives and exists; the Being who lives for ever; that is, God. It is therefore plain, that the purport of this Egyptian word, when explained by the Grecians, related uniformly to life, and the God of life, the self-existing being. We have seen that the justness of these interpretations is confirmed by the Coptic. The same is observable of the To o of Plato, which was borrowed from the same source. Ακηκοως γαρ εν Αιγυπτῳ τον Θεον τῷ Μωυση ειρηκεναι, Εγω ειμι ὁ Ων, εγνω, ότι ου κύριον ονομα ἑαυτε ὁ Θεος προς αυτον εφηAUTOV εOnThey are the words of Justin Martyr', who says, that Plato learnt in Egypt, that the deity represented himself to Moses under the character of, or the living God; and that Plato knew it was not a proper name: by which is intimated, that he rendered it as
Just. Martyr. Cohort. p. 21. c.
By the ancient philosophers, the deity was stiled to iv ; and it was said-το ἓν παντα. Plato changed the term to T •, as we learn from Simplicius, Plotinus, and others.