Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ancient Egypt and the Afterlife

As we had to visit Perth yesterday for a doctors appointment for one of the kids, I thought we would take the opportunity as a family to check out the Egyptian Antiquities from the Louvre exhibit at the Art Gallery of WA.

The exhibition itself was spectacular with an amazing selection of artefact's dating back thousands of years and in amazing states of preservation.

One of the most interesting aspects of the exhibition was the focus on the religious beliefs of the Egyptians, particularly pertaining to the afterlife. It is almost as if the Egyptians were preoccupied with death and the life beyond the grave.

One of the more interesting exhibits was a beautiful papyrus dating back to c500BC containing what is commonly referred to as the "Book of the Dead" or as it was known by the Egyptians, the Book of going forth by day. This book is essentially a Lonely Planet guide to the afterlife. It contains everything a deceased Egyptian needs to know about traversing the lands beyond the grave, facing the judgment of Osiris and gaining entry into the field of reeds, the Egyptian version of paradise.

As we made our way around the exhibition, I was struck by how knowledgeable the Egyptians wanted to appear about the afterlife. From the way they prepared their mummies and tombs right down to the Book of the Dead and its descriptions of the things the dead would encounter and the spells required to make it through the hall of judgment to paradise on the other side. They seemed to have every base covered and in immaculate detail.

It slowly dawned on me how different this way of looking at the world was to the Judeo-Christian way, and how different the Egyptian equivalent, the Book of the Dead, was to the Bible. Whereas the ancient Egyptians claimed great knowledge of the life that came after death the Judeo-Christian scriptures really don't deal much with it at all.

Where the Book of the Dead covered everything the newly deceased needed to know to traverse the perils of the afterlife, the Bible covers everything its readers need to know to traverse the perils of this life. Very few claims are made about the afterlife by its writers.

I think this caused me to think again about our place in God's plan. The afterlife (or lack of) is a given, one way or another we will all experience it, yet, the biblical text makes it clear, what happens now is of much more concern than what happens afterwards. Whereas the Egyptians were preoccupied with death and the afterlife, we, as followers of Jesus need to be preoccupied with life, and living it to the full! That's the lesson I learned from the Egyptians at the Art Gallery.

No comments: