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The Shared Descent of Semitic and Aryan in Christian Bunsen’s History of Revelation

In: Philological Encounters
Author: Tuska Benes1
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The desire to uphold monogenesis encouraged Christian Bunsen (1791-1866) to bridge the Semitic and Indo-European language families. Bunsen’s identifying ancient Egyptian as a linguistic bridge had implications for the supposed history of God’s revelation to humankind, as well as for German conceptions of “Semitic” as a racial category in the 1840s. The rise of Sanskrit as a possible Ursprache, as well as new critical methods and the rationalist critique of revelation, altered the position Egypt once held in ancient wisdom narratives. However, the gradual decipherment of hieroglyphs and efforts to historicize ancient Egyptian encouraged Bunsen to rethink the history of religion. His faith in monogenesis and Bunsen’s deriving Aryans and Semites from a common ancestor did not inhibit the racialization of “Semitic” as a category or reverse the loss of status Hebrew antiquity suffered as other scholars located primordial revelation in the Aryan past. Instead religion itself became racialized.

Abstract

The desire to uphold monogenesis encouraged Christian Bunsen (1791-1866) to bridge the Semitic and Indo-European language families. Bunsen’s identifying ancient Egyptian as a linguistic bridge had implications for the supposed history of God’s revelation to humankind, as well as for German conceptions of “Semitic” as a racial category in the 1840s. The rise of Sanskrit as a possible Ursprache, as well as new critical methods and the rationalist critique of revelation, altered the position Egypt once held in ancient wisdom narratives. However, the gradual decipherment of hieroglyphs and efforts to historicize ancient Egyptian encouraged Bunsen to rethink the history of religion. His faith in monogenesis and Bunsen’s deriving Aryans and Semites from a common ancestor did not inhibit the racialization of “Semitic” as a category or reverse the loss of status Hebrew antiquity suffered as other scholars located primordial revelation in the Aryan past. Instead religion itself became racialized.

When the Prussian philologist and future diplomat Christian Bunsen cancelled a planned voyage to Calcutta in 1817, he may already have been expecting ancient Egyptian, not Sanskrit, to unlock what Maurice Olender terms the “inaccessible archives of paradise.”1 As a young student of philology, Bunsen had been swept up in the first wave of Romantic longing for India, hoping to position “the Ganges” at the formative origins of “Germanic humanity” so that “the devil can’t drag it out again.”2 Writing to his close friend, the Indologist Friedrich Max Müller, in 1851, he explained that this “Indian voyage became an Egyptian journey.”3 The greater attraction ancient Egypt held for Bunsen lay in its presumed antiquity. Along with his protégée Richard Lepsius (1810-1884), Bunsen believed that ancient Egyptian had preserved elements of a primordial Asian tongue that was the common ancestor of both Semitic and Indo-European languages. If, as Olender notes, many nineteenth-century scholars imagined the Aryan and Semite as two twins separated at birth, for Bunsen, Egyptian hieroglyphs promised to open the secrets of their shared cradle.

Comparative philologists debated through the early 1860s whether ancient Egyptian belonged in the Semitic or the Indo-European language family. This paper examines the implications of early German Egyptologists positioning Egyptian as a bridge between the two, especially for their understanding of religious history and for German conceptions of Semitic as a racial category. Bunsen’s willingness to ascribe a common origin to Semitic and Indo-European languages was in itself controversial. Many comparativists insisted on their radical incommensurability, following Friedrich Schlegel’s assertion in 1808 that the organic structures of Sanskrit grammar allowed for a greater creativity of mind than the mechanical forms of Hebrew and Arabic. His brother, the Bonn Indologist August Wilhelm Schlegel, insisted that the Semitic languages were “distinct” from the Indo-European family: “no etymological tour de force can bring them back to a common origin.”4 Friedrich August Pott likewise inveighed against the type of “lumping languages together” (Sprachmengerei) that conflated the two families. Pott dismissed the “heroes of pseudo-etymologies” who thought otherwise, calling their work a “shameful horror” and the “death of true science.”5 Pott, like August Wilhelm Schlegel, believed in “pluralistic human beginnings” and in an “original diversity … of foreign language families.”6

Seeking to uphold a monogenetic view of human origins, a number of Protestant Hebraists, including Lepsius’ tutor Heinrich Ewald, insisted, by contrast, on the shared historical descent of Semitic and Indo-European, citing the ‘root word affinity’ of member languages. Many comparativists distinguished Hebrew by the dissyllabic character of its verb roots. In their written form, the roots of Hebrew verbs are made up of three consonants, forming two syllables rather than one as is the case in Sanskrit. Deriving Hebrew roots from simpler forms suggested an affinity with Sanskrit and implied a common, primordial homeland. Heinrich Ewald thus argued that primitive Hebrew roots proved the language had been an intermediary developmental stage between Chinese and Indo-European. In 1835, Julius Fürst presented evidence of a “formal original unity” of languages, hoping “to bring Semitic closer to the familial band of Indo-European.”7 Such efforts allowed comparative linguistics to support biblical history.8

It is tempting to associate a polygenetic model of linguistic origins with a biological or racial definition of Aryans and Semites and to regard biblical monogenesis as its antidote. Some commentators have noted that efforts to preserve monogenesis offered a defense against secular, scientific racism and that, in turn, racial ideas hastened the decline of biblical narrative.9 Egypt’s value lay for Bunsen in establishing the unity of the human race. But his shared derivation of Semitic and Indo-European languages racialized the presumed self-revelation of God through world history. The primary principle Bunsen used to organize the sweeping, speculative histories of religion he wrote in the 1840s and 1850s was an essentializing division between Aryans and Semites. He contributed to what Susannah Heschel terms the invention of an Aryan Jesus in the mid-nineteenth century by depicting Christ as reuniting the Semitic and Aryan legacies.10 Bunsen likewise racialized religion by depicting it as instinctual, arising from an inherent ethnic identity, and by deriving culturally specific forms of myth, ritual, and religion from language.

One of Bunsen’s chief concerns in his sprawling Egypt’s Place in Universal History (1844-57) and in God in History (1857-8) was clarifying the respective contributions various ethno-cultural groups had made to the history of revelation and the development of humanity’s religious consciousness. The significance Bunsen attributed to Egypt as a supposed deposit of relics from an original Asian homeland suggests the persistence in his work of a long-standing ancient wisdom narrative that reconciled pagan philosophy with Christian theology by referencing a shared inheritance of prisca theologia, pristine knowledge of God imparted through primordial revelation. However, both his preference for Egypt as a point of origin and his apparent adherence to the ancient wisdom narrative are anachronistic for the mid-nineteenth century. After Friedrich Schlegel’s Über die Sprache und Weisheit der Indier (1808), the rise of Sanskrit as a more likely Ursprache drove further into obscurity the idea that Egyptian priests had symbolically preserved esoteric, antediluvian knowledge in hieroglyphs. Recent histories of the ancient wisdom narrative date its eclipse to the Enlightenment or at the latest to the triumph in the German states in the 1820s of a liberal neohumanism that prioritized ancient Greece as a starting point for European culture, and to a new model of Wissenschaft that relinquished speculative, romantic histories in favor of more sober positivist historical scholarship.11

The gradual decipherment of hieroglyphs and efforts to historicize ancient Egyptian in the 1830s certainly opened new possibilities for ‘scientifically’ clarifying trajectories of historical influence in the unfolding of revelation. However, Bunsen’s project cannot simply be interpreted as the last gasp of an early modern Egyptological fascination with ancient theology, because his understanding of revelation broke with the traditional propositional model that sustained it. The prospect, for example, that the Hermetic books contained seeds of true theology depended on a divine disclosure of dogmatic truth passed from Adam to Noah and his descendants. Bunsen did not seek proto-Christian doctrines in Egyptian religion. Rather, he built upon an idealist philosophy of revelation elaborated by F.W.J. Schelling and G.W.F. Hegel in the 1820s and 1830s that severely limited the epistemological function of revelation. In their philosophy of religion, revelation entailed God’s progressive self-actualization in history and relied for its fulfillment on humanity’s cultivating a subjective inner consciousness of God. Bunsen evaluated the contributions made by linguistically-defined communities to revelation not based on their possession of esoteric wisdom, but on their supposed awareness of God’s self-disclosure through history. For him, subjective awareness of God’s self-realization, not doctrine, was the content of revelation. Bunsen, in fact, characterized the presumed cradle of humanity—in China—as deficient and by no means home to prisca theologia. This retooling of revelation enabled Bunsen to retain faith in a revised version of sacred history that accommodated critical-historical philology, but without succumbing to an ascendant neo-confessional orthodoxy; it also silenced rationalists who would have subsumed historical revelation to the eternal truths of reason.

Idealist discussions of God’s progressive self-revelation in history tended to reduce the historical significance of the ancient Israelites and of Judaism to the purveyance of an antiquated, now irrelevant consciousness of God, long since superseded by the universal, modern religious sensibility of an intellectualized Protestantism.12 Bunsen’s deriving Semitic and Indo-European languages and mythology from a common origin whose remnants lingered in ancient Egypt did not reverse the loss of status that Hebrew antiquity suffered as a result of this approach, or that of other Orientalists locating primordial revelation in the Aryan past. In his view, national isolation and a limited conceptual ability prevented Semitic peoples from fully comprehending God’s plans for humankind, especially as Mosaic Law ossified the free spiritual religion of Abraham. According to Bunsen, the Persian prophet Zoroaster held a structurally similar position to Abraham in the historical unfolding of human religious consciousness. Even if initially failing to eradicate the vestiges of nature worship, the Aryan mind, for Bunsen, better rationalized God’s role in history and universalized the covenant with God. Christianity, the true faith, was, for Bunsen, an Aryan religion, rendered philosophical and spread across continents, by more agile minds and bodies than those of Semitic speakers.

Egypt in the History of Revelation

Egypt’s shifting fortunes in early modern histories of revelation are complex and were navigated across myriad forms of inquiry including technical biblical criticism, apologetics, natural philosophy, metaphysics, and antiquarianism. At stake in assessing Egypt’s place in the history of religion was the respective authority and chronological priority of Judaic and Egyptian antiquity, the relative importance in the onset of monotheism of transmitted esoteric knowledge or revelation to the Jews, and the presumed reliability of biblical narrative and sacred history. Through the mid-seventeenth century, a doctrine of Judaic primacy rooted in patristic literature and apologetic Jewish historiography sanctified Moses as a pioneering sage and patron to Egyptian and Greek philosophy. Syncretists in this tradition of prisca theologia derived the esoteric wisdom supposedly preserved in Egyptian hieroglyphs and Pythagorean theorems from the sagacity of biblical Jews. The claim to Mosaic primacy generally relied on an allegorical reading of scripture and saw hidden philosophical genius in the Old Testament, rather than divine condescension or the accommodation of revelation to a primitive people.13

A competing narrative cultivated by Renaissance humanists favored Egypt as the more likely source of prisca theologia, the true home to biblical monotheism where Moses, according to Acts 7:22, acquired his wisdom.14 A late fifteenth-century revival of Neoplatonist thought among Christian syncretists drew attention to a host of sages, including Zoroaster, Hermes Trismegistus, and Orpheus, whose knowledge seemingly anticipated the doctrines of revealed religion. Marsilio Ficino’s translation of the misdated Hellenistic texts known as the Corpus Hermeticum encouraged speculation that the Egyptian priest and philosopher had possessed spiritual truths later imparted to Moses.15 By this view, Moses had inherited a powerful historical tradition before receiving revealed legislation that embodied its truths. A so-called “grammatology of secrecy” interpreted hieroglyphic writing as a priestly encryption that shielded an original esoteric monotheism from popular superstition.16 Lines of transmission emphasizing the chronological priority of pagan traditions posed a greater threat to biblical authority and veered dangerously into magic and the occult.

New methods of source criticism and a growing anti-syncretist skepticism among English antiquarians and biblical scholars substantially curtailed the viability of Mosaic primacy by the 1690s.17 Chronologically more daring readings of Manetho’s dynastic lists gave credibility to the notion that much in Jewish religion and intellectual culture hailed from Egypt, although this derivation was itself vulnerable to the new philology, especially after Isaac Casaubon exposed the Corpus Hermeticum as a forgery in 1614.18 The Jesuit Anthanasius Kircher (1602-1680) melded occult philosophy and philological erudition in the effort to decipher hieroglyphic inscriptions, depicting ancient Egypt as the fountainhead of antediluvian traditions. In the context of the Counter Reformation, Egypt’s significance lay, for Kircher, in having transmitted proto-Christian doctrine and in its ability to make visible possible moments of corruption as that doctrine entered the custodianship of the Catholic Church.19 Contests over the relative foundational status of Hebrew or Egyptian antiquity continued in subsequent years, but only as “a faint after-skirmish,”20 one reflected, for example, in the competing historical genealogies claimed by Egyptianizing Freemasons and religiously more orthodox lodges that revered Hiram, the builder of Solomon’s temple.21

As the beleaguered ancient wisdom narrative entered the eighteenth century, Egypt offered an apologetic corrective to the prospect that China and India were even older sources of genuine religion. Jesuit missionaries and accomodationists, such as Joachim Bouvet, proclaimed China a font of Christian tradition. He and other figurists read Chinese sources, including the Yijing, as ur-traditions that predated the Pentateuch and contained knowledge of monotheism, the trinity, and Christ. The universal history found in Voltaire’s Essai sur les moeurs (1756) likewise opened with an antediluvian China and stressed the antiquity of India. Fearing this chronology would refute sacred history, Joseph de Guignes (1721-1800) declared China to be an Egyptian colony. Egyptian hieroglyphs, in his view, had been designed to safeguard the antediluvian unitary language of humanity, and China had merely inherited Egypt’s writing system and religious beliefs. By the early 1770s, India posed the greatest threat to biblical authority and chronology, and de Guignes debunked its link to the cradle of humanity by asserting Indian transmission from China.22

Egypt’s association with ancient theology emerged from the enlightened critique of revealed religion severely compromised and tinged with both radicalism and the occult. Late eighteenth-century free-thinkers reinterpreted Egypt to be the cradle of a universal natural religion. The Cambridge Platonist Ralph Cudworth (1617-1688) had suspected that a monotheistic natural theology had been a crucial component of Moses’ Egyptian education. Deists, Spinozists, pantheists, and freemasons sought in ancient Egypt evidence of a primitive monotheism that transcended revelation and could be approached by the natural light of reason alone.23 This doctrine was encapsulated in the Greek words “Hen kai pan” or the One and All, which declared the existence of a universal supreme divinity in the natural world. The formula resurfaced in Germany during the so-called Pantheismusstreit of the 1780s, notoriously scrawled by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing on the wallpaper of his garden house in a revelation of his Spinozist sympathies.24

Considerations of Christianity’s specific debts to mystical Hermeticism were sidelined in the late eighteenth century into a “reactionary”25 faction of Freemasons with ties to the Rosicrucians, who, wary of pantheism, emphasized revelation over Platonic reason and resisted modern science and the deistic, emanistic, or atheistic tendencies of rationalism. Enlightened Freemasons, by contrast, divested the Hermetic tradition of its significance for the history of religion. As Florian Ebeling has argued, the politically radical Illuminati regarded the mysteries as a secular form of platonic rationalism, rather than as divine inspiration.26 Ignaz Elder von Born, a leading exponent of the Austrian Enlightenment, interpreted the ancient Egyptian mystery cults as a religion of science. The Hermetic tradition, which, for von Born, inspired Freemasonry, was not mystical, nor did it depend on divine knowledge or the supernatural.27

Enlightened theologians found historical knowledge of Egypt indispensible to biblical criticism, but favored Mosaic revelation and the hermeneutic principle of accommodation over the idea of an esoteric religious wisdom transmitted from Egypt. For the Göttingen theologian Johann David Michaelis, Egypt was devoid of primeval revelation. His Mosaisches Recht (1770-1) sought precise historical and cultural knowledge of pharaonic Egypt as an aid to interpreting Mosaic legislation. Intending to assert the value of Hebrew law against the claims of English deists, Michaelis argued that Moses not only adapted ancient traditional law from the nomadic herdsmen who were the Israelites’ ancestors. His “judicious policy” and “legislative wisdom” betrayed an origin that was “largely Egyptian,” in emphasizing the needs of a powerful agricultural state that discouraged foreign trade.28 Michaelis, however, dismissed the possibility that Moses had gleaned religious knowledge from learned and scientific circles in Egypt. The religious dimensions of Egyptian law consisted, for him, in fraud, a deceitful legitimation of state interests.

New approaches to comparative and historical language study further dislodged Egypt’s claims to primordial revelation. By the early eighteenth century, developmental theories of language and culture had contributed to a demystification of hieroglyphs, undermining their association with esoteric wisdom.29 Giambattista Vico denied they harbored ancient occult wisdom, regarding them instead as a mode of expression befitting a primitive age incapable of subtle cognition.30 Hieroglyphs, moreover, appeared to encrypt ideas “independent of language” and to communicate a “nondiscursive philosophy” through symbols.31 This understanding of writing meshed well with a universalizing, early modern model of language denoting preexisting concepts through symbols, but was anathema to the new historicist view of nationally conditioned languages shaping locally specific forms of thought. Johann Gottfried Herder’s disdain for Egypt not surprisingly hinged on linguistic criteria.32

The type of comparative grammar and historical linguistics pioneered by Friedrich Schlegel, Franz Bopp, and Jacob Grimm in the early nineteenth century sidelined ancient Egyptian as ill-suited to its methods. The process of deciphering the Rosetta stone, which Napoleon’s soldiers discovered in 1799, was a protracted and disputed affair with many misleading trails. Egyptian hieroglyphs remained inaccessible to German language scholars for many years after Jean-François Champollion’s death in 1832. A postcritical revival of revelation among Romantic scholars and orientalists rejuvenated the ancient wisdom narrative in these years.33 But without secure linguistic evidence, German philologists had only a weak foundation for inserting Egypt into their speculative diffusionary schemes for mapping the origin and transmission of culture. Not until the 1840s could philologically trained scholars historically situate textual evidence from Egyptian antiquity in relation to the biblical tradition. And even in 1845, Bunsen reckoned that ten more years were needed before German scholars could successfully “hew the Egyptian language tree with Grimm’s linguistic tools.”34

Given the better accessibility of Sanskrit, and its apparent national historical significance for German speakers, India rapidly eclipsed Egypt in the early nineteenth century as the likeliest site of primordial revelation. Through the 1820s, Egypt appeared to many German scholars as a derivative culture whose world-historical significance lay chiefly as a way station for transmitting Indian religious symbolism to the ancient Greeks. Friedrich Schlegel thus proposed in 1808 that Egypt had been an Indian “colony of priests.”35 Hermeticism, from this perspective, appeared to be part of a broader tradition of wisdom that originated in the Vedic religion of India.36 By 1830, even the attempt to position Egypt as an offshoot of Indian traditions had faltered. According to Lepsius, the Indologist and biblical critic Peter von Bohlen (1796-1840) was the last to seriously ponder whether Egyptian religion and culture derived from India.37

Christian Bunsen was heir to a long tradition of speculating on Egypt’s role in the divine transmission of religious truths. By the early nineteenth century, however, critical-historical philology, rationalist biblical criticism, and new concepts of language had inhibited the idealization of ancient Egypt as the home of prisca theologia. Among theologians, Egypt increasingly served as a testing ground for Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and for the historical reliability of biblical narrative. Inaccurate depictions of Egypt confirmed for von Bohlen, for example, that a compiler who never resided along the Nile had assembled the Mosaic books out of two distinct traditions in the eighth century.38 Neo-confessional theologians, such as Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg, by contrast, reaffirmed the historical credibility of the Old Testament by defending its Egyptian references and refuting the alternative historical chronologies found in Egyptian sources.39 Committed to the truth of sacred history, yet skeptical of both rationalism and orthodoxy, Bunsen needed new mechanisms for positioning Egypt in the history of religion. Source critical methods boosted his confidence in Egypt’s great antiquity. Yet he could not embrace the precritical epistemological function revelation once claimed as the putative source of the proto-Christian doctrines his predecessors had detected in Egyptian esotericism.

Egypt in Defense of Monogenesis

Christian Bunsen’s interest in Egypt evolved as part of a broader ambition to define an historical mission for German national culture grounded in a religious narrative of human redemption. As John Toews argues, Bunsen saw in the Prussian state of Friedrich Wilhelm iv the opportunity to transform German ethnic culture into the embodiment of Christianity’s revealed truth. This aspiration took form during the nationalist awakening of the Napoleonic occupations and underwent a number of fluctuations after Bunsen’s initial hopes for a Christian-German state fell short in 1815.40 Like other scholars with neo-Platonist leanings, Bunsen expected knowledge of the primeval Orient to help position the German nation within the broader historical process through which God revealed himself to humankind. Bunsen’s historical scholarship aimed to determine what contributions individual cultures had made to the progressive realization of the divine in humanity, so as to place Germany at the culmination of larger patterns in universal history.

Early Romantic speculation on India’s connection to Europe inspired Bunsen’s first Orientalism. As a boy in Corbach in the Principality of Waldeck, Bunsen reportedly “dropped … on occasion a few words about India,” as a childhood friend recounted.41 Despite the modest circumstances of a family dependent on Dutch military service, Bunsen embarked on university studies in 1808, quickly abandoning his theological training to pursue classical philology in Göttingen with C.G. Heyne, G.L. Dissen, and Karl Lachmann. In 1813, William Backhouse Astor, his wealthy American benefactor, brought Bunsen to Vienna where he conversed with Friedrich Schlegel, stopping in Munich for Persian language instruction. The following year, Bunsen declared it his life’s goal to “transpose the language and spirit of the solemn and distant East into my scholarship and my fatherland.”42 A prize-winning essay on the imprint left by the ancient Indian laws of Manu on Athenian inheritance law earned Bunsen a doctoral degree from the University of Jena.

Bunsen outlined a methodology for integrating the ancient Orient into the stream of universal history in an “Entwurf eines Studienplanes” (1816) presented to his mentor and patron Barthold Niebuhr, the prominent historian of ancient Rome. Upon completing his degree, Bunsen had moved to Berlin and immersed himself in the Niebuhr’s “Historical School” of cultural studies, and his approach reflects philological training in classical studies and the influence of Herder, as well as Schlegel’s and Schelling’s idealist philosophies of history.43 Bunsen assumed that the underlying principle defining a culture’s individuality was articulated in language.44 Its “inner structure” was the “purest mirror of the peculiarities dispersed through art and science,”45 and language could unravel the “ethnic and linguistic trees … that extend through various periods of history.”46 In 1816 Bunsen envisioned and started preparations for a three-year trip to Calcutta to gather linguistic materials and acquire artifacts. He was delayed, however, by what he considered necessary preparations—understanding the relationships among Germanic languages and peoples, including Danish and Icelandic, and mastering Persian and Sanskrit.

A chance move to Rome, and the effects of Bunsen’s “religious turn”47 of 1816-17, permanently dislodged India from his intellectual itinerary. After Astor abruptly abandoned his tutor on a trip to Florence, a destitute Bunsen took refuge with Niebuhr, then serving the Prussian diplomatic mission to the Holy See.48 Contact with the Nazarene painters in Rome, the spirit of revived Catholicism at the papacy, and the evangelical piety of his young British bride, Frances Waddington, redirected Bunsen’s attention to the Bible’s significance for interpreting human history.49 As for many in his generational cohort, the 1815 restoration crushed any expectation for the immanent fulfillment of the German national idea in the political sphere and encouraged a religious awakening.

Shortly before he switched allegiances to Egypt, biblical revelation thus assumed new importance within Bunsen’s project of understanding the Orient’s relevance for sacred history. As Bunsen explained to his elder sister Christiana in December 1817, the ambition behind the India trip had been “finding God in man” and discovering in “language and religion” evidence of His workings through man. Now Bunsen realized that without adequate knowledge of Christianity “the trip to India would have entirely destroyed its chief object.”50 God, he explained, intended humanity to achieve redemption through two paths: “through reason among pagans” and “through revelation to the Jewish people.” “I was mistaken,” Bunsen confessed, “in believing one could understand paganism on its own.”51 Bunsen’s scholarly projects in the 1820s attempted, as Toews shows, to uncover an “irrefutable historical core of Christianity” by applying the methods of historical criticism to Christ’s life, the earliest forms of Christian liturgy, and the relations of Christians with each other.52 A diplomatic appointment as Chargé d’Affaires of the Prussian delegation to the Vatican forced Bunsen’s intellectual labors into odd hours, while gradually rebuilding his confidence that Prussia could embody the “‘redeemed nationality’” of German speakers.53

The turn towards Egypt therefore coincided for Bunsen with a reorientation towards the Christian tradition. Egypt had two advantages over India from this perspective: an historical connection to the Hebrews and, in Bunsen’s view, greater antiquity. The decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs during the mid-1820s also made rigorous philological engagement with ancient Egypt conceivable. When Champollion travelled to Rome in 1825, Bunsen accompanied him on excursions to study Egyptian obelisks.54 Still under the sway of Enlightened universalism, Champollion, as Markus Messling has shown, revered Egypt as a point of origin for human civilization and for Europe’s phonetic alphabet, however in less theological terms than Bunsen.55 Reading the works of the Italian Egyptologist Ippolito Rossellini and conversations with the Austrian diplomat and Orientalist Anton Prokesch von Osten (1795-1876) confirmed Bunsen’s interest in Egypt, but the harried diplomat needed a research assistant, whom in found in Richard Lepsius.

Lepsius’s vision of how ancient Egyptian related to Semitic and Indo-European must have delighted Bunsen’s quest for primitive origins. In 1835 Lepsius proposed that the written forms of ancient Egyptian revealed traces of an ancestor shared by both Semitic and Indo-European languages.56 In a petition to the Prussian Academy of Sciences for travel funds to Italy, Lepsius emphasized the pivotal location of ancient Egypt in the earliest stages of language formation. “The primitive Egyptian language,” he argued, was “by no means so far removed from the Semitic and Indo-Germanic” as almost universally considered. Establishing the “relationship of the Egyptian to the Semitic and Indo-Germanic primitive languages” would, he hoped, clarify “its original relation to other civilizations” and justified Prussian investment in the field.57

In Egypt’s Place in Universal History, Bunsen concurred that the “Egyptian language proves, both grammatically and lexicographically, the original identity of the Semitic and Arian.”58 Similarities in the forms of personal pronouns, as well as evidence that bi-syllabic Semitic roots grew out of original monosyllabic forms “forever broke down,” for him, the “partition wall” between families.59 Egyptian contained vestiges of a “very early stage in the development of a primeval Semitic-Iranian language.”60 The first Egyptians, he concluded, had left Asia before the Semitic and Iranian languages separated, preserving evidence of their common ancestor, which itself died out. This perspective sustained a pervasive racial narrative among later Egyptologists that disregarded ancient Egypt’s connections to sub-Saharan Africa.61

The historical role Bunsen and Lepsius attributed to ancient Egyptian reversed the privileges recently bestowed upon India on the timeline of human origins. Egypt’s strategic value for universal history lay, for Bunsen, in its role as the “deposit of a linguistic and mythological consciousness from the primeval antediluvian world.”62 The moment at which a language family detached itself from its common mother corresponded, in Bunsen’s view, to a stage of grammatical and intellectual progress. He located ancient Egyptian at the mid-point along a continuum of cultural development extending from an original, inorganic, formless language composed of roots (Sinism) to the free, harmonious, and self-conscious Indo-European tongues. Semitic speakers separated off before the Aryans, hence their language never attained the “harmonious formation”63 of Iranism, “the perfect instrument of the consciously creative mind.”64

Language offered Bunsen a powerful entry point into prehistorical time because of its supposedly formative role in the emergence of cultural communities and the consolidation of religious beliefs and practices. Like Friedrich Max Müller, Bunsen subscribed to a form of linguistic determinism in which grammar and vocabulary shaped religious sensibilities. “Language and knowledge of divine things,” he presumed, developed “gradually and evidently according to inner laws.”65 The historical nature of divine revelation was thus visible, for Bunsen, in culturally specific forms of language. The affinities previous scholars had noted between Egyptian mystery cults and the religion of the Hebrews derived, Bunsen surmised, not from Moses’s adopting local customs, but from the common connection each shared with the primitive Asian homeland. The religious, as well as the linguistic, consciousness of the Egyptians was rooted in Ur-Asia; any affinity with the considerably younger Babylonians, Vedic Indians, or even the Hebrews derived from their shared primeval origins.

Race, Religion, and the “Semitic”

A concept of revelation rooted in idealist philosophy sustains Bunsen’s analysis of how various cultural groups contributed to the religious consciousness of humanity. God in History credits Schelling and Hegel with providing a viable philosophical framework for comprehending the unfolding of spirit in world history. Schelling’s System of Transcendental Idealism (1800) had cast aside an epistemological approach to revelation, once understood as a privileged source of otherwise inaccessible truths. For him, revelation entailed the historical process by which God came into being in the world; it had ontological, rather than epistemological significance. “History as a whole is a progressive, gradually self-disclosing revelation of the absolute, Schelling wrote, “He [God] continually reveals Himself.”66 During the 1830s Schelling lectured on the philosophy of revelation, which he framed as a positive history of experience correlating God’s self-realization in history with the development of human religious consciousness. Hegel’s own Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion (1832) similarly argued that the necessary structure of God’s self-revelation shaped the history of religion or how humanity conceptualized God.

Bunsen bound the development of human religious sensibilities to the progressive self-actualization of God in the world. “Revealing itself … in world history,” he wrote, “is nothing less than the divinity itself.”67 Relatively unconcerned with uncovering doctrinal truth in pre-Christian faiths, God in History tracks in dialectical fashion a progression in human awareness of God’s real presence in history. Bunsen evaluated the extent specific nations possessed “knowledge of how Becoming developed out of Being, that is out of the Absolute,”68 which was necessary to grasp the world’s moral order and humankind’s place in it. The possibility for attaining such knowledge was, according to Bunsen, the “three most exalted revelations of the indeterminate”69 as the good, the true, and the beautiful in history, nature, and the human soul. God’s self-revelation as eternal subject constituted the highest ‘good’ on earth, as eternal object, unconditioned truth, and as the perfect unity of thought and being, perfect beauty. Bunsen criticized Hegel for deriving the principle of divine becoming from pure speculation and followed Schelling in building analysis of God’s self-revelation from determinate being or the presumed facticity of divine existence in language, religion, art, science, and the state. On these grounds, his method melded the philosophy of spirit with concrete philological and historical research.

Revelation still filled a limited epistemological function in Bunsen’s scheme as the foundation of the human capacity for knowledge. In his view, the three highest manifestations of God as the good, the true, and the beautiful also fueled corresponding powers in the human soul: will, reason, and the imagination. An individual’s religious sensibility, as well as his potential for ethical personhood, rested on man’s having been created in God’s image and possessing certain inborn endowments. This warranted, for Bunsen, crediting human beings with significant agency in the realization of divine purpose. Humanity, in his view, “itself also authored the development of the divine idea in time.”70 Its mission was “to reveal the eternal thoughts of the divinity and to self-consciously realize them,”71 by giving the infinite a presence in thought, art, and science, and enacting ethical principles in law and political life. Revelation, so conceived, lacked a specific propositional content.

This understanding of revelation helped Bunsen navigate the theological waters of the Restoration and Vormärz. His declared intention in God in History was to free interpretation of the Bible from existing theological systems, especially from the dogmatism of neo-confessional orthodoxy and its henchmen, including Hengstenberg. In Die Zeichen der Zeit (1856) Bunsen indicted the Lutheran leadership as papist and hierarchical.72 He eschewed their literalist interpretation of scripture as divinely inspired. Bunsen likewise rejected the rationalist presumption that reason harbored a higher revelation than the contingencies of history. In his view, metaphysical speculation degenerated into abstract formalism or mysticism without an historical foundation.73 Like Schelling, Bunsen expected the philosophy of religion to recognize the revelations contained in sacred history as truths of reason. Critical-historical exegesis of the Old Testament would, moreover, clarify the sequence of historical events through which God guided humanity to better appreciation of the divine. Bunsen ascribed a positive value to the early chapters of Genesis.74 His work on Egypt aspired to correct the historical record and adjust biblical chronology using scientific principles. Idealist philosophy, in his view, made visible and self-conscious the verifiable objective truth of biblical narrative.

The historical starting point for Bunsen’s account of revelation was China, and, as in Schelling’s and Hegel’s philosophies of religion, this origin was characterized more by deficits than by an honorable prisca theologia. The early eighteenth-century Jesuit fascination with Chinese sources, by contrast, gave China a biblical pedigree by uncovering an original monotheism.75 Bunsen upheld the Chinese as the “actual aboriginal tribe of the primeval home of man;”76 dating back to 20,000 bce, China was the “parent source” for the “undivided main stream of history.”77 Yet it also functioned, for Bunsen, as the “grand antithesis”78 for the development of true religious consciousness. Just as Schelling in his Freedom essay of 1809 postulated an original negating force as the requisite grounds for divine self-revelation, Bunsen disparaged primeval China as the “dark background”79 which spirit had to demolish before attaining consciousness. In his view, the Chinese religious consciousness did not factor in world history since it never completely unfolded; only traces of its “ruins” remained in scattered references to archaic death cults in the Confucian books. China’s sole function, for Bunsen, was to illustrate the original union of Aryans and Semites, which revealed itself in uncanny synchronisms regarding creation and an otherwise inexplicable, “indubitable coincidence in the symbolical representations of tradition.”80

A fundamental division occurred separating human religious consciousness into Aryan and Semitic forms, according to Bunsen, once natural catastrophe drove the original human race from its homeland. The true “vestibule” of human history could be found, in his view, in Turanian and Khamitic (or Egyptian) antiquity. The Turanian epoch, dating to 15,000 bce, offered a prelude to the pre-Christian Aryan faiths of East Asia, the Khamitic, dating to 12,000 bce, embodied antediluvian, primitive Semitism and represented a bridge linking the primeval Urwelt with West Asia. Bunsen argued that parallel development structured the progression of human religious consciousness along its Turanian and Khamitic trajectories until the two streams reunited in the figure of Christ. Various “national type[s] of religious consciousness”81 could be situated along this framework. Each Urvolk possessed, in Bunsen’s view, its own primeval consciousness (Urbewußtsein), also expressed in language; this evolved over time from popular intuition to philosophical speculation to ceremonial worship, until finally inspiring a nation’s political organization.

The Turanian religious consciousness exemplified, for Bunsen, the as yet undeveloped Aryan mind, active but untamed by balanced social structures, law, art, or science. A “physical sensation of the infinite”82 led among Turanians to a yearning for ecstatic transcendence of ordinary life, a desire to enter states of clairvoyance and exalted consciousness, for example through music or intoxication. Its legacy could be seen, for Bunsen, in the orgiastic aspects of Dionysus worship and the magicism of Zoroaster.

The oldest deposit of true Aryanism was, according to Bunsen, Bactrian Iran where an ethical faith distinguishing good from evil superseded pure nature worship. A characteristic combination of intellect and moral energy enabled the Aryan mind to recognize Spirit as divine and to believe the universe had a moral order. Bunsen characterized Zoroaster as a reformer of this early ethical faith who lived under the Bactrian king, Vistaspa, around 3,000 bce. He was a cross, for Bunsen, between an Aryan Abraham and Luther. Zoroaster filled the same historical role for the Aryans, as Abraham did for the Semites, seeking spiritual forces and ethical ideals behind the physical elements of the universe. He banished adherents of pure nature worship across the Hindu Kush, and, although spirit still remained fettered to its symbolization in nature, Zoroaster distinguished himself by uniting conscience and reason. Bunsen equated Luther’s posting of the ninety-five theses to Zoroaster’s appearance, preserved in a Gatha he believed contained material from the prophet’s time, as a reformer before the assembled magistrates of his land. While failing to completely eradicate nature mysticism as Abraham did, Zoroaster demonstrated in this public transaction a reasoned appreciation for the unity of the good and true, typical of Aryan piety.

The language of the Vedas Bunsen held to be purer than that of the Zend Avesta, a compilation of Zoroastrian liturgical texts and commentaries containing layers of Old and Young Avestan. However, he ventured that genuine Zend predated Sanskrit, lifting Persia over India in the rush to greater antiquity. Zoroastrian studies benefitted considerably from Bunsen’s scholarship, vision, and patronage in the latter nineteenth century, as Suzanne Marchand has recently shown.83 In his view, migrants from Bactria brought their language and religious cult to the Indus valley several centuries before Zoroaster’s time. Features of some Vedic cults thus extended back to the primeval period before the dispersal of Aryan tribes, but, untouched by Zoroaster’s reforms, they embodied a degenerate religious consciousness. Bunsen disparaged Vedic religion as irredeemably pantheistic, lacking a concept of moral personality; overbearing princes and a priestly elite had paralyzed the ethical virility of its Bactrian predecessor. Yet he argued that the sacred books of the Indian Aryans “touch us more closely in some ways than tales of Hebrew antiquity, for we recognize and perceive a racial affinity in them.”84 Bunsen portrayed genius and an active intellect as the essential Aryan endowment, but its side-effect was imaginative allegorical imagery that inhibited ethical monotheism. Unlike Semitic heathens, however, pre-Christian Aryans, according to Bunsen, never lost site of God’s presence in the world, retaining faith in the spiritual forces behind heavenly bodies.

The Egyptians represented, for Bunsen, the “mummy of primitive Semitism,”85 the oldest historical branch of the family and the only to retain substantial traces of the shared Asian Urwelt. Egypt itself was thus not the original source of human religious consciousness, but, in Bunsen’s words, “the ruins of a time …, when Aryan and Semitic life, consciousness of God and the world, still bore witness to the essential unity of their beginnings.”86 According to Bunsen, the Egyptians left Asia before the flood, which he dated to 10,000 bce. Their mythology contained no reference to it and was thus older and had endured in rigid isolation from other traditions. As an antediluvian people, Egyptians had known nothing of Zoroaster or Abraham; their first encounter with Aryans came when the Persians dealt the deathblow to their empire. Nevertheless, significantly, the cult of Osiris, the center of Egyptian knowledge of God’s agency in history, indicated to Bunsen awareness of the two great fundamental laws of all religious consciousness: the indestructability of personal identity, or the soul, and faith in the unity of human reason and the conscience.

Among other Semitic tribes, excepting the Hebrews, the ancient sense of religion died out, according to Bunsen, extinguishing all appreciation of spirit’s presence in the world. He detected in Babylonian mythology, in particular, awareness of the divine act of creation, but its meaning remained latent and barren, detached from a sense of human unity. The “universal degeneration of the Semitic tribes,”87 visible in political despotism, unbridled lust, and the practice of human sacrifice, reduced the speculative, ethical imagery once used to symbolize higher powers to pure materialism. Cognizance of God’s presence in the world entirely forsook heathen Semites, while pre-Christian Aryans managed to increase their awareness of God’s role in history through the time of ancient Greece and Rome, when it precipitously collapsed under a glorified cult of selfhood, preparing the way for Christ.

Bunsen attributed two profound religious intuitions to the ancient Hebrews, but found significant deficits in how later Jews institutionalized the religious consciousness of Abraham. The first derived from a correct appreciation of creation—awareness of the unity of the human race and its origin in a unitary transcendent god. The second fostered awareness of the divine order of the world—faith in the human race gradually progressing into a realization of the good and the true as the center of God’s kingdom on earth. Bunsen honored Abraham as the first person to have faith in the moral order of the universe and to relate that to the importance of ethical personhood. His ability to break with the religion of Semitic heathens was the result of a divine revelation in the traditional sense, an “inward working of God’s spirit within his soul, attested to him by its intrinsic moral reasonableness.”88 At the same time, Bunsen regarded the religious consciousness of Abraham as a restoration of the same sensibility that persisted in weaker form among the Egyptians and pre-Christian Aryans. In the ancient Hebrews “the primeval consciousness of primitive humanity lived on spiritually with judicious … self-restraint,” Bunsen wrote, “to the extent that the primeval consciousness of God was still capable of development after horrendously degenerating.”89 A unique capacity for prophecy sustained the free spirituality of early Judaism and its confidence in the covenant between God and humanity.

As the legislation of Moses translated Abraham’s faith into sacred institutions and a national polity, however, its vibrancy faded, according to Bunsen. The “impervious shell” of Hebrew national sentiment, he concluded, “at last stifles the very inner life, which it was simply designed to protect.” Judaism became “exclusive and one-sided” weakened by a “prevailing spirit of formalism in relation to Divine things” and a “punctilious slavery to ceremonial.”90 Rites intended to protect the religion of spirit from idolatry erected a fence around a nation no longer able to regard itself as a representative of all humanity. Jews after Ezra, Bunsen concluded, reduced Abrahamic Mosaism to a dry theism that stifled the inner life and severed God from nature and man. This process, he wrote, was “equivalent to repelling and shutting out the Aryan.” A central point of the “sober intuitive thought” of the Aryan, Bunsen argued, entailed recognition of God’s presence in the world and of humanity’s role in divine self-revelation.91 As Judaism strengthened its national presence, its connections to the shared legacy of unified humanity dissipated along with knowledge of an original kinship with Aryans.

The failings of the Hebrew religious consciousness resulted for Bunsen from intractable Semitic traits. “The “Khamitico-Semitic race is exclusive in its tendencies, and so it remains,” Bunsen wrote in Egypt’s Place, “It has also a tendency to isolation by its exclusiveness. It feels as a sacerdotically sanctified people, and so it remains shut up in itself.”92 In Outlines of the Philosophy of Universal History, Applied to Language and Religion (1854), Bunsen argued that the members of what he termed the “Semitic race” in the English original shared an essential disposition rooted in instinct, language, and the body. The branches of the family were, in his words, “physiologically and historically connected.”93 Besides the Hebrews, he included as Semites other tribes of Canaan or Palestine including the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the historical nations of Aram, Syria, Mesopotamia, Babylonia, and the Arabs. Their religious and intellectual contributions to world history were limited chronologically and geographically. Excepting the Arabic empires, the notable achievements of the Semites, for Bunsen, predated Christianity, centered on religion, not science or politics, and were striking in their “narrow … compass.”94

Christianity overcame these deficiencies through a re-infusion of Aryan genius into humanity’s religious consciousness. Bunsen helped create an Aryan Jesus by detaching Christ from his Jewish context and depicting him as a reunion of Aryan and Semitic principles. The third volume of God in History, introducing Christianity, breaks with the national framework Bunsen employed until then to organize religious history, substituting analysis of how individuals relate to other communities. Jesus was “in the history of God consciousness not the last Jewish prophet,” he affirmed, but instead embodied a “purely human consciousness of God.”95 His contribution was to destroy the “dead and stultifying shell of degenerate Mosaism”96 and liberate the free spirituality of Abraham. In uniting the Jewish and Greek world, Christ furthermore promoted an “intimate, vital alliance between Semites and Japhites.”97 His achievement, Bunsen clarified elsewhere, was to “translate Semitism into Japhetic language, tradition into thought.”98 While recognizing a brief period of Christ’s reception among Jews, he asserted that Christianity “had no sooner formed the records of its foundation than it became the religion of Iranian nations.”99

The Aryanization of Abraham’s free religion of the spirit entailed, for Bunsen, both a process of intellectualization and of universalization and expansion. Japheth had been “the most powerful prophet of the human race,” in his view, because he “universalized the Semitic elements in Christianity” through the application of reason.100 The translation of Hebrew monotheism into Christianity rendered “the words of sacred and ever-living historical tradition and individual consciousness into the most adequate terms of abstract philosophy.”101 The highly philosophical and rational Protestantism Bunsen attributed to the Germanic peoples was the culmination of the Aryan intellectual genius once visible in Zoroaster’s original reformation. The Aryan aptitude for conquest and movement had likewise facilitated the geographical dispersion of Christianity, and Bunsen envisioned the “whole world [being] Japhetized … Christianized by the agency of the Teutonic element.”102 The three great historical representatives of action had been, in his view, the Romans, Germans, and English.

Bunsen’s history of God’s self-revelation transformed religion into an essential marker of nationality and race. Bunsen’s faith in monogenesis and his derivation of Aryans and Semites from a common ancestor visible in ancient Egypt did not inhibit the racialization of these categories. As he himself remarked, “language and civilization, physiology and philology go hand in hand.”103 Because language gave rise to mythology, religious consciousness was inborn, a type of intuition vaguely rooted in ethnicity. Many philologists at mid-century, including Max Müller, explicitly decoupled philology and ethnology under pressure from physical anthropologists; others, including Pott, rejected the racial theory of Arthur Comte de Gobineau based on his misuse of linguistic evidence.104 This denial of language’s connection to biological race, however, should not blind historians to the racializing effects of linguistic determinism in the cultural sphere.105 Religion itself became racialized as Bunsen discussed the contributions Aryans and Semites made to revelation. He historicized the Protestantism of Germanic peoples as the culmination of a much deeper, Aryan historical trajectory that began with Zoroaster. The bridge ancient Egyptian cast across language families ultimately collapsed under the pressure of a national project of reconstruction that only valued a brief moment in the history of ancient Israel when God delivered revelation to Abraham.

1 Maurice Olender, The Languages of Paradise: Race, Religion, and Philology in the Nineteenth Century, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), 5.

2 Bunsen, Letter to friend Becker, March 6, 1814 in Frances Waddington Bunsen, Christian Carl Josias Freiherr von Bunsen: Aus Seinen Briefen und nach eigener Erinnerung, ed. Friedrich Nippold, vol. 1 (Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus, 1868), 50.

3 Bunsen, Letter to Friedrich Max Müller, May 15, 1815, in Nippold, vol. 3 (1871), 107.

4 August Wilhelm Schlegel, “De l’origine des hindous” in Essais littéraires et historiques (Bonn: Weber, 1842), 489.

5 August Friedrich Pott, “Indogermanischer Sprachstamm” in Allgemeine Encyklopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste von J.S. Ersch und J.G. Gruber ii, vol. 18. (Leipzig: J.F. Gleditsch, 1840), 14.

6 Pott, “Indogermanischer Sprachstamm,” 12.

7 Julius Fürst, Lehrgebäude der aramäischen Idiome mit Bezug auf die Indo-Germanischen Sprachen (Leipzig: Karl Tauchmitz, 1835), ix-x.

8 See Arno Beyer’s summary in Deutsche Einflüsse auf die englische Sprachwissenschaft im 19. Jahrhundert (Göppingen: Kümmerle Verlag, 1981), 184-6.

9 Colin Kidd, The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600-2000 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 120ff.

10 Susannah Heschel, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (Princeton: University of Princeton Press, 2008), 32.

11 See Wouter J. Hanegraaff, Esotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012) and Suzanne Marchand, German Orientalism in the Age of Empire: Religion, Race, and Scholarship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

12 See, for example, Michael Mack, German Idealism and the Jew: The Inner Anti-Semitism of Philosophy and German Jewish Responses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003).

13 Dmitri Levitin, Ancient Wisdom in the Age of the New Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 114ff.

14 See Jan Assmann, Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997).

15 Marchand, German Orientalism, 3-5.

16 Assmann, Moses the Egyptian, 108.

17 Levitin, 114.

18 Levitin, 159.

19 Daniel Stolzenberg, Egyptian Oedipus: Anthanasius Kircher and the Secrets of Antiquity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 137-43.

20 Levitin, 229.

21 Assmann, Moses the Egyptian, 115-25.

22 Urs App, The Birth of Orientalism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), 207ff.

23 Assmann Moses the Egyptian, 139.

24 Assmann, Moses the Egyptian, 140.

25 Florian Ebeling, The Secret History of Hermes Trismegistus: Hermeticism from Ancient to Modern Times, trans. David Lorton (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007), 129.

26 Florian Ebeling, “Rationale Mysterien? Eine Interpretaionsoption für die Zauberflöte,” in Sibyelle Meyer, ed. Egypt—Temple of the Whole World / Ägypten—Tempel der Gesamten Welt: Studies in Honour of Jan Assmann (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 68.

27 Ebeling, Secret History, 122-3.

28 Johann David Michaelis, Mosaisches Recht, vol. 1 (Frankfurt am Main: Johann Gottlieb Garbe, 1775), 15.

29 Levitin, 223f.

30 Stolzenberg 247.

31 Jan Assmann, “Forward” in Ebeling, Secret History, xi.

32 Johann Gottfried Herder, Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit, vol. 3 (Riga: Johann Friedrich Hartknoch, 1790), 143.

33 See, for example, Johann Gottfried Herder, Älteste Urkunde des Menschengeschlechts 2 vols. (Riga: J.F. Hartknoch, 1774-6).

34 Christian Karl Josias Bunsen, Aegyptens Stelle in der Weltgeschichte: Geschichtliche Untersuchung in fünf Büchern, vol. 1 (Hamburg: Friedrich Perthes, 1845), 335-6.

35 Friedrich Schlegel, Ueber die Sprache und Weisheit der Indier: Ein Beitrag zur Begrundung der Alterthumskunde (Heidelberg: Mohr und Zimmer, 1808), 179-80.

36 Ebeling, Secret History, 133.

37 Richard Lepsius, Die Chronologie der Aegypter. Einleitung und erster Theil, Kritik der Quellen (Berlin: Nicolaische Buchhandlung, 1849), 3. See Peter von Bohlen, Das alte Indien, mit besonderer Rücksicht auf Aegypten, vol. 1 (Königsberg: Gebrüder Bornträger, 1830).

38 Peter von Bohlen, Die Genesis, historisch-kritisch erläutert (Königsberg: Gebrüder Bornträger, 1835), lv.

39 Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg, Die Bücher Mose’s und Aegypten: Nebst einer Beilage: Manetho und die Hyksos (Berlin: Ludwig Oehmigke, 1841), iii.

40 John Edward Toews, Becoming Historical: Cultural Reformation and Public Memory in Early Nineteenth-Century Berlin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 67-70.

41 Wolrad Schumacher, “Bunsen’s Knabenjahre,” in Nippold, vol. 1, 17.

42 Bunsen to friend Becker. March 6, 1814 in Nippold, vol. 1 (1868), 50.

43 Toews, 75.

44 Bunsen, “Entwurf eines Studienplanes, Niebuhr in Berlin im Jahre 1816 eingereicht” in Nippold, vol. 1, 86.

45 Bunsen, “Entwurf,” 86.

46 Bunsen, “Entwurf,” 88.

47 Toews, 83.

48 Bunsen, Letter to Christiana, 13 December 1816, in Nippold, vol. 1, 108-9.

49 Toews, 77.

50 Bunsen, Letter to Christiana, 28 December 1817, in Nippold, vol. 1, 138.

51 Bunsen, Letter to Christiana, 28 December 1817, in Nippold, vol. 1, 139.

52 Toews, 88.

53 Cited in Toews, 67.

54 Nippold, vol. 1, 252-3.

55 Markus Messling, Champollions Hieroglyphen: Philologie und Weltaneignung (Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos, 2012), 40-5.

56 See Richard Lepsius, “Über die Anordung und Verwandtschaft des Semitischen, Indischen, Äthiopischen, Alt-Persischen und Alt-Ägyptischen Alphabets” and “Über den Ursprung und die Verwandtschaft der Zahlwörter in der Indogermanischen, Semitischen und der Koptischen Sprache” in Zwei sprachvergleichende Abhandlungen (Berlin: Ferdinand Dümmler, 1836).

57 Richard Lepsius, “Lepsius’ Bericht über die Anfänge seiner ägyptologischen Studien an die Berliner Königliche Akademie der Wissenschaften” in Georg Ebers, Richard Lepsius: Ein Lebensbild (Lepzig: W. Engelmann, 1885), 363-4.

58 Christian Bunsen, Egypt’s Place in Universal History: An Historical Investigation in Five Books, trans. Charles H. Cottrell, vol. iv (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1860), 141. This is an addition Bunsen made to the English translation and is not present in the German original. See the German passage to which it was added in Bunsen, Aegyptens Stelle, vol. 5, 1-3 (1856), 133.

59 Bunsen, Aegyptens Stelle, vol. 5, 1-3 (1856), 73.

60 Bunsen, Aegyptens Stelle, vol. 5, 1-3 (1856), 36.

61 Marchand, Orientalism, 130.

62 Bunsen, Aegyptens Stelle, vol. 4 (1856), x.

63 Bunsen, Aegyptens Stelle, vol. 5, 1-3 (1856), 37.

64 Bunsen, Aegyptens Stelle, vol. 5, 1-3 (1856), 37-8.

65 Bunsen, Aegyptens Stelle, vol. 1 (1845), 11.

66 F.W.J. Schelling, System of Transcendental Idealism (1800), trans. Peter Heath, Intro Michael Vater (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1978), 211.

67 Christian Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte oder der Fortschritt des Glaubens an eine sittliche Weltordnung, vol. 1 (Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1857), xli.

68 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 1, xxxiii-xxxiv.

69 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 1, xxxiv.

70 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 1, xii.

71 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 1, xi.

72 See Wilhelm Kahle, “Die Zeichen der Zeit—Ein Beitrag zur Theologie- und Geistesgeschichte des 19. Jahrhunderts” in Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte, vol. 24, no. 4 (1972): 289-315.

73 Toews, 105.

74 J.W. Rogerson, Old Testament Criticism in the Nineteenth Century: England and Germany (London: spck, 1984), 124.

75 App, 272ff.

76 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 2 (1858), 44.

77 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 2, 45.

78 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 2, 58. Translation from Bunsen, God in History, 235.

79 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 2, 59.

80 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 2, 184.

81 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 1, 61.

82 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 2, 39.

83 Suzanne Marchand, “Dating Zarathustra: Oriental Texts and the Problem of Persian Prehistory, 1700-1900” in Erudition and the Republic of Letters 1(2016): 203-245.

84 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 2, 101.

85 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 2, 44.

86 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 2, 24.

87 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 1, 344.

88 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 1, 164. Translation from Bunsen, God in History, 83.

89 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 1, 310.

90 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 1, 139-40. Translation from Bunsen, God in History, 62.

91 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 2, 185. Translation from Bunsen, God in History, 377.

92 Bunsen, Aegyptens Stelle, vol. 5, 1-3 (1856), 135. Translation from Bunsen, Egypt’s Place, vol. iv, 143.

93 Christian Bunsen, Outlines of the Philosophy of Universal History, Applied to Language and Religion, vol. 2 (London: Longman, Green, and Longmans, 1854), 10.

94 Bunsen, Outlines, vol. 2, 11.

95 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 3 (1858), 4-5.

96 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 3, 10.

97 Bunsen, Gott in der Geschichte, vol. 3, 11.

98 Bunsen, Outlines, vol. 2, 196.

99 Bunsen, Outlines, vol. 2, 196.

100 Bunsen, Outlines, vol. 2, 195.

101 Bunsen, Outlines, vol. 2, 207.

102 Bunsen, Outlines, vol. 2, 284.

103 Bunsen, Outlines, vol. 2, 26.

104 See Friedrich Max Müller, “Letter to Chevalier Bunsen on the Classification of the Turanian Languages” (1853) in Bunsen, Outlines, vol. 1 (1854), 349-52, as well as Pott’s critique of Gobineau in Friedrich August Pott, Die Ungleichheit menschlicher Rassen hauptsächlich vom sprachwissenschaftlichen Standpunkte, unter besonderer Berücksichtigung von des Grafen von Gobineau gleichnamigem Werke. Mit einem Überblicke über die Sprachverhältnisse der Völker. Ein ethnologischer Versuch (Lemgo: Meyer’sche Hofbuchhandlung, 1956).

105 See on this Markus Messling, “Text and Determination: On Racism in 19th Century European Philology” in Philological Encounters (1), 2016: 79-104.

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  • Pott Friedrich August Die Ungleichheit menschlicher Rassen hauptsächlich vom sprachwissenschaftlichen Standpunkte, unter besonderer Berücksichtigung von des Grafen von Gobineau gleichnamigem Werke. Mit einem Überblicke über die Sprachverhältnisse der Völker. Ein ethnologischer Versuch 1956 Lemgo Meyer’sche Hofbuchhandlung

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  • 4

    August Wilhelm Schlegel, “De l’origine des hindous” in Essais littéraires et historiques (Bonn: Weber, 1842), 489.

  • 5

    August Friedrich Pott, “Indogermanischer Sprachstamm” in Allgemeine Encyklopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste von J.S. Ersch und J.G. Gruber ii, vol. 18. (Leipzig: J.F. Gleditsch, 1840), 14.

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  • 6

    Pott, “Indogermanischer Sprachstamm,” 12.

  • 7

    Julius Fürst, Lehrgebäude der aramäischen Idiome mit Bezug auf die Indo-Germanischen Sprachen (Leipzig: Karl Tauchmitz, 1835), ix-x.

  • 9

    Colin Kidd, The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600-2000 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 120ff.

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  • 10

    Susannah Heschel, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (Princeton: University of Princeton Press, 2008), 32.

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  • 11

    See Wouter J. Hanegraaff, Esotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012) and Suzanne Marchand, German Orientalism in the Age of Empire: Religion, Race, and Scholarship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

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  • 12

    See, for example, Michael Mack, German Idealism and the Jew: The Inner Anti-Semitism of Philosophy and German Jewish Responses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003).

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  • 13

    Dmitri Levitin, Ancient Wisdom in the Age of the New Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 114ff.

  • 14

    See Jan Assmann, Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997).

  • 15

    Marchand, German Orientalism, 3-5.

  • 16

    Assmann, Moses the Egyptian, 108.

  • 19

    Daniel Stolzenberg, Egyptian Oedipus: Anthanasius Kircher and the Secrets of Antiquity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 137-43.

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  • 21

    Assmann, Moses the Egyptian, 115-25.

  • 22

    Urs App, The Birth of Orientalism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), 207ff.

  • 24

    Assmann, Moses the Egyptian, 140.

  • 27

    Ebeling, Secret History, 122-3.

  • 35

    Friedrich Schlegel, Ueber die Sprache und Weisheit der Indier: Ein Beitrag zur Begrundung der Alterthumskunde (Heidelberg: Mohr und Zimmer, 1808), 179-80.

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  • 36

    Ebeling, Secret History, 133.

  • 37

    Richard Lepsius, Die Chronologie der Aegypter. Einleitung und erster Theil, Kritik der Quellen (Berlin: Nicolaische Buchhandlung, 1849), 3. See Peter von Bohlen, Das alte Indien, mit besonderer Rücksicht auf Aegypten, vol. 1 (Königsberg: Gebrüder Bornträger, 1830).

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  • 38

    Peter von Bohlen, Die Genesis, historisch-kritisch erläutert (Königsberg: Gebrüder Bornträger, 1835), lv.

  • 39

    Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg, Die Bücher Mose’s und Aegypten: Nebst einer Beilage: Manetho und die Hyksos (Berlin: Ludwig Oehmigke, 1841), iii.

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  • 40

    John Edward Toews, Becoming Historical: Cultural Reformation and Public Memory in Early Nineteenth-Century Berlin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 67-70.

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  • 45

    Bunsen, “Entwurf,” 86.

  • 46

    Bunsen, “Entwurf,” 88.

  • 55

    Markus Messling, Champollions Hieroglyphen: Philologie und Weltaneignung (Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos, 2012), 40-5.

  • 56

    See Richard Lepsius, “Über die Anordung und Verwandtschaft des Semitischen, Indischen, Äthiopischen, Alt-Persischen und Alt-Ägyptischen Alphabets” and “Über den Ursprung und die Verwandtschaft der Zahlwörter in der Indogermanischen, Semitischen und der Koptischen Sprache” in Zwei sprachvergleichende Abhandlungen (Berlin: Ferdinand Dümmler, 1836).

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  • 66

    F.W.J. Schelling, System of Transcendental Idealism (1800), trans. Peter Heath, Intro Michael Vater (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1978), 211.

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  • 72

    See Wilhelm Kahle, “Die Zeichen der Zeit—Ein Beitrag zur Theologie- und Geistesgeschichte des 19. Jahrhunderts” in Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte, vol. 24, no. 4 (1972): 289-315.

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  • 83

    Suzanne Marchand, “Dating Zarathustra: Oriental Texts and the Problem of Persian Prehistory, 1700-1900” in Erudition and the Republic of Letters 1(2016): 203-245.

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  • 105

    See on this Markus Messling, “Text and Determination: On Racism in 19th Century European Philology” in Philological Encounters (1), 2016: 79-104.

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