Voices of the Divine: Isis, God, Wisdom
I. The Divine proclaims the Divine Name with “I AM” Proclamations
A. THE GODDESS ISIS. Isis, in Egyptian religion, was worshipped as the wife of Osiris and the mother of Horus. Isis became enormously popular throughout the Greco-Roman world in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Her worship outside of Egypt was established in the fourth century BCE by Egyptians residing in Piraeus, Greece. In the Hellenistic and Roman periods, Isis became central to a system of worship that included Temples with Greek-like statuary, festive banquets, and a mystery cult that featured initiation into the mysteries of Isis, insuring salvation to her devotees. The great hymns, or aretalogies, that celebrate her manifold accomplishments, virtues, and miracles, address her as "O Thou of countless names" and identify her with varied goddesses or with the One.
1. THE CYME INSCRIPTION. This inscription has the form of an aretalogy, or a series of praises of the goddess in the form of self-descriptions that reveal her identity and function. This inscription, found in Asia Minor, can be dated to the second century C.E., and is the most complete of the various Isis aretalogies. It is said to have been copied from a stele before the temple of Hephaistos in Memphis, Egypt. Other inscriptions are known from Andros, los, and Nysa.
I am Isis, the mistress of every land, and I was taught by Hermes, and with Hermes I devised letters, both the sacred [hieroglyphics] and the demotic, that all things might not be written with the same letter.
I gave and ordained laws for human beings, which no one is able to change.
I am eldest daughter of Kronos.
I am wife and sister of King Osiris.
I am she who finds fruit for humans.
I am mother of King Horus.
I am she that is called goddess by women.
For me was the city of Bubastis built.
I divided the earth from the heaven.
I showed the paths of the stars.
I ordered the course of the sun and the moon.
I made strong the right.
I brought together woman and man.
I appointed to women to bring their infants to birth in the tenth month.
I ordained that parents should be loved by children.
I laid punishment upon those disposed without natural affection toward their parents.
I made with my brother Osiris an end to the eating of human beings.
I revealed mysteries unto human beings.
I taught humans to honor images of the gods.
I consecrated the precincts of the gods.
I broke down the governments of tyrants.
I made an end to murders.
I compelled women to be loved by men.
I made the right to stronger than gold and silver.
I ordained that the true should be thought good.
I devised marriage contracts.
I assigned to Greeks and barbarians their languages.
I made the beautiful and the shameful to be distinguished by nature.
I ordained that nothing should be more feared than an oath.
I have delivered the plotter of evil against other humans into the hands of the one he plotted against.
I established penalites for those who practice injustice.
I decreed mercy to suppliants.
I protect righteous guards.
With me the right prevails.
I am the Queen of rivets and winds and sea.
No one is held in honor without my knowing it.
I am the Queen of war.
I am the Queen of the thunderbolt.
I stir up the sea and I calm it.
I am in the rays of the sun.
I inspect the courses of the sun.
Whatever I please, this too shall come to an end.
With me everything is reasonable.
I set free those in bonds.
I am the Queen of seamanship.
I make the navigable unnavigable when it pleases me.
I created walls of cities.
I am called the Lawgiver [Thesmophoros. a classical epithet of Demeter].
I brought up islands out of the depths into the light.
I am Lord Enote masculine form] of rainstorms.
I overcome Fate.
Fate haricens to me.
Hail, 0 Egypt, that nourished me!
B. The Lord God in the Hebrew Bible:
1. Exodus 3:6-8.
The Lord said [to Moses], "I AM the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob... .1 have marked well the plight of My people in Egypt and have heeded their outcry... I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and to bring them out of that land to a good and spacious land..
2. Exodus, 3:13-15:
Moses said to God, “When I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me2 What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses. “Ehyeh—asher—ehyeh.” [variously translated: I AM THAT I AM; I AM WHO I AM; I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE”]. He continued, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites, “Ehyeh [I AM or I WILL BE] has sent me to you.. .Thus shall you speak to the Israelites: Yahweh [the Lord] , the God of your fathers... .has sent me to you. This shall be my name forever. This My appellation for all eternity."
3. Exodus 20:1-4.
God spoke all these words, saying: "I AM your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage: You shall have no other gods besides Me. You shall not make for yourself a scuptured image."
C. WISDOM IN JEWISH TRADITION
Proverbs 8:1—8: 17 Wisdom cries out to humanity
It is Wisdom calling, Understanding raising her voice. She takes her stand at the topmost heights, By the wayside, at the crossroads, Near the gates at the city entrance; At the entryways, she shouts, “O human beings. I call to you; My cry is to all humanity. O simple ones, learn shrewdness; O dullards, instruct your minds. Listen, for I speak noble things;..My mouth utters truth...All my words are just....Those who love me I love, And those who seek me will find me...
2) Proverbs 8:22—27; 30—36 Wisdom as the Firstborn of God and God’s Agent in Creation
The Lord created me at the beginning of His course as the first of His works of old. In the distant past I was fashioned, at the beginning, at the origin of earth. There was still no deep when I was brought forth…. I was there when He set the heavens into place. . . I was with Him as a confidante, a source of delight every day, Rejoicing before Him at all time, Rejoicing in His Inhabited world, Finding delight with humanity. Now, children, listen to me; happy are they who keep my ways.... For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord. But he who misses me destroys himself: All who hate me love death.”
3) Wisdom of Solomon 6:12—18: 7:21—26 Wisdom as Revealer and Fashioner
Wisdom is radiant and unfading, and she is easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her. He who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty, for he will find her sitting at his gates. To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding, and he who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care, because she goes about seeking those worthy of her, and she graciously appears to them in their paths, and meets them in every thought. The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction. and concern for instruction is love of her, and love of her is the keeping of her laws.
I learned both what is secret and what is manifest, for Wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me. For in here there is a spirit that is intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen, irresistible, beneficent, humane, steadfast, sure, free from anxiety, all— powerful, overseeing all, and penetrating through all spirits that are intelligent and pure and most subtle.... Because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things. For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; She is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of His goodness.
4) Sirach 24:1—12, 19—22
Wisdom will praise herself and will glory in the midst of her people. In the assembly of the Most High she will open her mouth, and in the presence of his host she will glory: “I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist. I dwelt in high places, and my throne was in a pillar of cloud.... Among all I sought a resting place; I sought in whose territory I might lodge. Then the Creator of all things gave me a commandment, and the one who created me assigned a place for my tent. And He said, “Make your dwelling in Jacob, and in Israel receive your inheritance.’...And so I was established in Zion...So I took root in an honored people, in the portion of the Lord, who is their inheritance...
Come to me, you who desire me, and eat your fill of my produce. For the remembrance of me is sweeter than honey, and my inheritance sweeter than the honeycomb. Those who eat me will hunger for more, and those who drink me will thirst for more. Whoever obeys me will not be put to shame, and those who work with my help will not sin.
5) 1 Enoch 42
Wisdom could not find a place in which she could dwell; but a place was found (for her) in the heavens. Then Wisdom went out to dwell with the children of the people. But she found no dwelling place. So Wisdom returned to her place and she settled permanently among the angels. Then Iniquity went out of her rooms, and found whom she did not expect. And she dwelt with them, like rain in a desert, like dew on a thirsty land.
Proverbs 8:1—8: 17 Wisdom cries out to humanity