Ever since J. Breasted pointed to the similarity between Ancient Egyptian literature and the Old Testament psalms for the first time, the issue of whether the parallels seen between these texts are an evidence of plagiarism has been widely discussed, but to no avail: while most scholars argue that the evident similarity in forms actually means the psalm authors used older texts as a source for writing their own prayers, there is no reason to accuse the Hebrews of plagiarism. The author of the article makes an attempt to analyze the similarities and differences between the two texts, and pays attention to the theological gulf that separates psalm 103 and the Great Hymn to the Aten. Despite the seeming identity of images and ideas, the analysis of the verses reveals that it is doubtful that the authors of the psalms simply rewrote ancient texts to match their religion. The difference manifests itself in the way God and Ra are described, the emphasis on the crucial role of the pharaoh, which is absent in psalm 103, the implicit meaning of night (the two images of night used are contrasting, as the Egyptian text implies that night is the time when evil dominates everything, whereas psalm 103 shows that night is just another wonder of God, and the fact that the Sun is no longer seen does not mean that God loses His power), etc. The structure of the prayer also suggests that the text was not merely rewritten: the verse consequence is different. The aims of the texts in question are also different: the Great Hymn to the Aten is actually about glorifying the pharaoh, not the Egyptian god, whereas psalm 103 glorifies God, not some other person acting on behalf of Him. The author comes to the conclusion that the similarity of form does not mean similarity of content, and the theological difference outweighs all lexical, stylistic and other parallels (including images). Certain allusions to Egyptian beliefs and practices are used to bolster the Hebrews’ faith, just as Moses explained in the Book of Genesis that the Sun is merely a means of lightning, not a god, to eliminate such alien elements from the mind of his people.

Key words: psalms, psalm 103, Psalter, Ancient Egypt, the Great Hymn to the Aten.

DOI: 10.22250/2072-8662.2018.2.5-11

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About the author 


Ksenia A. Shperl – Postgraduate student at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University;

23B Novokuznetskaya str., Moscow, Russia, 115184; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.