Egyptian Ethics -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 047:187 (Jul 1890)
Article: Egyptian Ethics
Author: Anonymous


Egyptian Ethics1

EACH of the great nations of antiquity had, so to speak, its mission in the world; the special mission of the Egyptians appears to us not the least noble in the development of the civilization which is the pride of modern times.

This history presents itself to us in three divisions.

To the Babylonians is due incontestably the merit of having created commercial law, with a marvellous knowledge of the questions of interests, of business, of the transformation and the utilization of different values; with a surprising intuition of the fundamental principles of political economy.

Among the Greeks human thought expanded to wondrous amplitude. Poetry spreads its wings, and charms by its divine songs. Eloquence is no longer the spontaneous accent of a heart that is moved: it becomes an art that is cultivated, I had almost said, a science. Philosophy giving body to abstractions, proclaims the reign of the idea, the worship of the beautiful.

But law, taking this word in its highest meaning; morality, its application to the relations of men to each other; the equitable organization of the condition of persons and its consequences; the science of the human soul and its destinies,—this was, pre-eminently, in the education of humanity, the share of this Egyptian people, who were far more ancient than the Greeks.

In the Orient as in the Occident, among the Jewish

prophets as among the historians, the poets, and the philosophers of Greece, there existed the same almost unlimited admiration of the sages of Egypt. It is the sages of Egypt to whom Isaiah can find no opponent but the wisdom of Jehovah. It is to them that Pythagoras, Solon, Plato, the most illustrious of the Greeks for their wisdom, went to be taught as disciples, according to the stories of their times; and we have often had occasion to show that these statements of the ancients are confirmed by documents recently discovered, so that, for instance, we now know with certainty that Solon copied many of the laws of Athens after those of Egypt.

Of all that has lasted until our time, ethics, as we understand it, is pre-eminently of Egyptian origin. Strangely enough, we can even say that, while among other ancient peoples ethics was the result of religion, one is led to think at the first glance that in Egypt it was in some way independent.

There were in Egypt a large number of learned men who were, properly speaking, only moralists, as were, at a relatively recent period in our western world, Isocrates, Epic-tetus, the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, etc. Is not the oldest book ...

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