– First Phoenician Cosmogony : From ” Cosmotheologies ” by Robert Shaw, 1889 –
The whole representation contained in Philo consists of three Cosmogonies. Of these the first only exhibits a connected unity in itself: The other two, although more or less united in themselves, are yet rather fragmentary in their apparent character, especially the one which is considered the most recent, that of Uranos and Cronos.
1. (“Philo here assumes that the beginning of the All was a dark and stormy atmosphere, or a breath of dark air and a muddy chaos, like Erebus. These things were in a state of unconsciousness and during ages had no definable limits.” Eusebius).
2. ” Then (he says) the spirit was moved to the eternal beginnings and a commixture took place, which intermingling was called Desire (Pothos). This (Desire) is the beginning of the creation of all things ; but this did not know the creation of itself and from the commingling of itself and the wind Moch was produced: This some say is mud and others a purtridity of watery mixture : And from this same Moch sprang all the seeds of creation and it is the genesis of the universe.
3. And there were also beings created without sensation from which sprung intelligent beings ; and they are called Zophasemin, i.e.. Watchers of Heaven.
4. And Moch was formed in the shape of an egg ; and the sun and moon and stars and constellations shone forth.
5. (” Such,” says Philo, “is the Cosmogony, which,” in his opinion, ” has a tendency to Atheism. We will now see what he says about the origin of Zoogony (the creation of living beings). He expresses himself thus:” Eusebius)
6. And the air and the sea and the earth being rendered clear through the action of fire there arose winds and clouds and great fallings and pourings of the heavenly waters. And upon this there was separation and removal of things from their places; and, consequent upon the action of the Sun’s heat, and again at the moment
all things encountered each other and collided, each with each, there ensued thunderings and lightnings ; and by the rattle of the thunders the above mentioned intelligent beings were awakened and frightened and there came into motion in the Earth and Sea beings of male and female sex.”
7. (“Such,” says Philo, “is also the Zoogony.” In such way speaking the same historian bears upon this subject:” Eusebius) :
8. “These things were discovered (by him Sanchoniatho) In the Cosmogony written by Taut and among his memorials, from the marks and tokens which his reason perceived and discovered and made clear for us : (Upon this he records the names of the winds Notus, Boreas and the rest and goes on to say : Eusebius) :
9. “But these people first made sacred the fruits of the earth and appointed them to be gods and worshiped them, of which both themselves and all their ancestors were used to subsist and they
made them libations and offerings :
Andheadds : “Now, these institutions of their worship corresponded
to their weakness of moral character and to their timidity of soul.”
The following is a synoptical view of this first cosmogony tabulated, which will make it more clear than many words : —
Commentary on First Phoenician Cosmogony :
This cosmogony bears some resemblance to the Babylonian. While sufficiently definite in its representation of Mokh as the cosmic egg some have fallen into the error of representing Mokh as an old Phoenician philosopher and the inventor of the atomic theory. Strabo, for example, after attributing the discovery of arithmetic and astronomy to the Phoenicians (XYI. 2. 24) remarks: ” If we are to believe Posidonius the doctrine of atoms is ancient, and is derived from a Phoenician, Mokhos, who lived before the Trojan war.” This is about the date Philo ascribes to Sanchuniatho, a word which Movers considers to have been taken for the name of an author through a misunderstanding. Eudemus, also mentions Mokhos as the representative of the doctrine of the primeval slime.
“According to the Phoenician mythology,” says he, “which was invented by Mokhos, the first principle was ether and air : from these two beginnings sprang Ulomos (the eternal), the rational (conscious) God.” The beginning, as here also, corresponds to that in the book of Genesis. The earth was without form and void and darkness was over the face of the deep and the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
There is something sublime about this last, as it comes to us in such simple language, clothed neither in a mythological nor a philosophical garb. Our first Phoenician cosmogony has, however, rather a philosophical than a mythological expression. In it Chaos is the unlimited, existing as a reality in time. It might, too, by a strict analysis, be found to be a generally intelligent expression. In saying that the Pothos or Desire did not know its own creation, I would understand it to mean that Desire is a creation and as such would not be supposed to know the cause of its creation.
As to the Spirit (Pneuma or Ruah) which creates, to say that it was unconscious of what it created and for what it created it would be an absurdity. This cosmogony cannot fairly be called either atheistic or pantheistic on account of this particular remark. It has been thought to have a materialistic coloring, for instance, from the names of the winds being introduced as divine powers of mature. They are four in number, corresponding to the four cardinal points, or the “four ends of the earth” in the Bible.
Damascius’ account represents the winds as part of the Phoenician cosmogony, and says that the one Ruah (breath) was contrasted with many Ruahs. The breath (Ruah) became wind and was understood as a cosmogonical agency. This was in character with the ideas of a sea-faring people. Among the Phoenicians, therefore, Boreas and Zephyr, Notus and Eurus, enjoyed not only a poetical existence, as in Homer, but were considered as creative, co-operative powers, in producing the order of things. This is a variation of the Mokh theology, which latter, in its simple state, appears to represent an ancient idea.
As regards the last sentence, which represents men worshiping, as their gods, the fruits of the earth, I may say that it appears, from Gen. I. 28, 29, that men in the very ancient times lived on plants and fruits and neither ate nor sacrificed animals. Not only in this passage, but in the ancient Brahminical theology, the limitation of sacrifices to things not endued with life is truly implied. According to the Greeks, this state of things prevailed until the time of Prometheus. But the idea in the philosophic theology of the Phoenicians might appear as of men abstaining from the sacrifice of animals through fear ; from which Philo may have concluded they worshiped the fruits of the earth; but this could be only a misunderstanding of the oldest tradition, which held that men were accustomed to bring thank offerings periodically to God out of those things which helped most sensibly to sustain their lives. Upon Abel’s offering the firstlings of his flock there ensued murder, slaughter and the removal of the husbandman from his once happy home into the uninhabited regions. Would not this imply the introduction of a new phase of religion, a new mode of life?