Prefiguring Christ in Phoenicia
I'm working to see if it's feasible to produce a new, hardcover edition of Cory's Ancient Fragments, an important collection of Greco-Roman testimony about Egyptian and Near Eastern history and mythology that went through three editions between 1828 and 1876. Until the discovery of the cuneiform tablets of the Near East, these fragments were all that was known about Near Eastern history outside of the Bible.
The book is widely available for free online viewing, but if you want a printed copy (and I find it much easier to thumb through a reference work that way), the only choices seem to be overpriced, blurry photostat reprints or error-ridden OCR cut-and-paste jobs. I'm thinking that I'll reset the text, print it in an attractive hardcover, and quietly amend the final 1876 edition to correct the bizarre inconsistencies the final editor and/or typesetter let pass.
In reviewing the 1876 Ancient Fragments, I found this interesting passage from the questionably historical Phoenician writer Sanchuniathon, transliterated by modern scholars as Sakkunyaton, as preserved in Eusebius of Caesaria. The passage, if it truly reflected actual Phoenician belief in the early centuries BCE, seems to call into question the unique nature of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross. Note: The Greek writer whose translation of Sanchuniathon Eusebius used was a Euhemerist, and he has made the Phoenician gods mortal kings. In the original, Cronus (Il or El), would have been the chief god.
This passage has long attracted attention. Jacob Bryant, the brilliant but decidedly wrong-headed mythologist who believed the Bible to be the origin of mythologies, was so amazed by the coincidence of themes--the divine Father who gives his only begotten son, dressed in the emblems of royalty, in sacrifice to prevent the ruination of the people--could only sputter that this must have been a "prefiguration" of the story of Christ to come.
However, Sanchuniathon's other excerpts make plain that Cronus had many other children, male and female, so it isn't clear how this fragment relates to these others. It's also not entirely certain how much of this story is genuinely Phoenician and how much has been filtered through the lenses of the Hellenistic, Christian, and anti-Christian writers that report it. Some scholars, like Albert I. Baumgarten, believe that this particular passage was fabricated by Porphyry, an anti-Christian polemicist, to discredit the Christians, perhaps subtly altering a genuine, existing myth.
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I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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