Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Joseph of Egypt and Pythagoras

Damien F. Mackey
Having proposed the connection between the patriarch Joseph of Egypt as the wise Ptah-hotep, and also as Thales ‘the first philosopher’, in articles such as:
Re-Orienting to Zion the History of Ancient Philosophy
it is now a small step, I believe, to connect this sage also to the alleged ‘first user of the word philosophy’, Pythagoras – thought, however, to have been born at Samos in c. 570 BC.
As in the first part of the name Tha-les, so here again in the case of the name Pyth-agoras, the Egyptian divine name “Ptah”
has, I think, been Grecised.
Also once again, as with Thales, we appear to have the problem of a lack of first-hand written evidence [W. Guthrie, “Pythagoras and Pythagoreanism”, Ency. of Phil., Vol. 7, (Collier Macmillan, London, 1972), p. 39]: “The obstacles to an appraisal of classical Pythagoreanism are formidable. There exists no Pythagorean literature before Plato, and it was said that little had been written, owing to a rule of secrecy”.
Consistently though, Pythagoras, like Thales, was much influenced by Egypt.
I have suggested that, in fact, the great ‘Pythagorean’ contribution to mathematics (numbers, geometry, triangles) may also have been bound up with Egypt and with the great vizier Imhotep’s (= Joseph’s) measuring and other activities as an architect.
Now consider the pattern of the life of Pythagoras and his descendants in relation to Joseph and the family of Israel (the Hebrews).
Pythagoras, like Joseph,
  1. left his home country and settled in a foreign land, founding a society with religious and political, as well as philosophical aims. Compare the Hebrews settling in the eastern Delta of Egypt (Genesis 46:33).
  1. The society gained power there and considerably extended its influence. Compare this with the growth of Israel in Egypt, and its spreading all over the country (Exodus 1:9, 12). After Pythagoras’ death,
  2. a serious persecution took place. Likewise, about 65 years after Joseph’s death, the “new king” of Exodus 1:8, became concerned about the amount of Hebrews in Egypt and resolved upon a cruel plan. Moses was born into this very era – the pyramid-building 4th dynasty era – at the approximate time that the founder-pharaoh Khufu (Greek Cheops)/Amenemes I had resolved to do something about the increase of Asiatics (including Hebrews) in Egypt. The Prophecies of Neferti, “All good things have passed away, the land being cast away through trouble by means of that food of the Asiatics who pervade the land” ( The pharaoh thus ordered for all the male Hebrew babies to be slain (Exodus 1:10, 15-16).
  3. The (Pythagorean) survivors of the persecution scattered. This may equate with the Exodus of Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 12).

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