Through authentic records of various kinds, extending through a period of not less than three thousand years. It may have been in existence for many centuries anterior to the earliest of the monuments which have been preserved. Its origin is a matter, not of history, but of speculation. Its last centuries coincide with the first centuries of the Christian religion which gradually supplanted it. During this period the zoolatry, or worship of the sacred animals, was the feature which chiefly attracted the notice of the Christian apologists who have made any observations upon the subject. Clement of Alexandria, one of the most learned and philosophical of the Greek Fathers, introduces his account of the Egyptian worship in a chapter againstthe use or abuse of finery by Christian ladies. 1 Hecompares those ladies who elaborately decorate theiroutside and neglect the soul, in which the image of God should be enshrined, to the Egyptians, who have magnificent temples, gleaming with gold, silver and electrum, and glittering with Indian and Ethiopian gems. "Their shrines, " he continues, "are veiled with gold-embroidered hangings. But if you enter the penetralia of the enclosure and, in haste to behold something better, seek the image that is the inhabitant of the temple, and if any priest of those that offe rsacrifice there, looking grave and singing a paean in the Egyptian tongue, remove a little of the veil to show the god, he will furnish you with a hearty laugh at the object of worship. For the deity that is sought, to whom you have rushed, will not be found within, but a cat, or a crocodile, or a serpent, or some such beast, unworthy of the temple, but quite worthy of a den, a hole or the dirt.

 

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Lectures on the Origin & Growth of Religion of Ancient Egypt - P Le Page Renouf

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