), an Egyptian divinity, so called by Strabo (xvii. p.562
); while other writers, such as Plutarch, probably more in conformity with the genuine Egyptian name, call him Cneph (Κνήφ
). Plutarch (de Is. et Os.
21) states, that all the Egyptians contributed to the maintenance of the sacred animals, with the exception of the inhabitants of Thebais, who did not worship any mortal divinity, but an unborn and an immortal one, whom they called Cneph.
This statement would lead us to the belief, that the inhabitants of Thebais worshipped some spiritual divinity to the exclusion of all others, and that consequently their religion was of a purer and more refined nature than that of the other Egyptians; but we know front other sources, that in Thebais, as well as in other places, animals were worshipped, such as the crocodile (Hdt. 2.69
), the eagle (Diod. 1.87
; Strab. xvii. p.559
), the ram [AMMON], and a kind of harmless snake. (Hdt. 2.74
The god Cneph himself was worshipped in the form of a serpent, as we learn from Strabo and Eusebius (Euseb. Praep. Ev. 1.10
), the latter of whom states, that Cneph was called by the Phoenicians Agathodaemon, a name which occurs also in coins and inscriptions of the time of the Roman empire, in which the god himself is represented in the form of a serpent.
It was probably the idea of which the serpent is the symbol, that gave rise to the opinion of Plutarch and others, that Cneph was a spiritual divinity; and when this notion had once become established, the symbol of the god became a matter of less importance, and was changed. Thus Eusebius (Euseb. Praep. Ev. 3.11
) informs us, that the Egyptians called the creator and ruler of the world (δημιουργός
) Cneph, and that he was represented in the form of a man, with dark complexion, a girdle, and a sceptre in his hand. Cneph produced an egg, that is, the world, from his mouth, and out of it arose the god Phtha, whom the Greeks called Hephaestus. Most modern writers entertain about Cneph the same or nearly the same views as were propounded by the Greek philosophers, and accordingly regard him as the eternal spirit, and as the author of all that is in the world. Cnuphi is said to signify in the Coptic language the good spirit, like Agathodaemon. (Jablonsky, Panth. Aegypt.