On priesthood, from “Exploring religion in ancient Egypt“ by S.Quirke

The monumental scale of well-preserved temple architecture and sculpture encouraged later generations to a caricature of ancient Egypt as a land ruled by priests and superstition. However, the temples in question were not designed for crowds to hear sermons or readings, but more as containers for safely defusing the encounter between offerer and deity. As offering place, the sacred architecture required stocking with goods and staffing with personnel to keep the place clean and the offerings flowing each day and at festivals. In this sense, there is no clergy, only a temple staff (Egyptian wenut). Against the image of a separate priestly caste, written sources indicate that most staff served by monthly rota. Anyone with a temple position might serve a maximum of three months in a year but quite possibly less. The rest of the time, presumably, they worked outside the temple, explaining why men with temple positions often also bear administrative titles—a reminder too that ancient work was not a 9–5, 365-day commitment. […] there was no one word for priest: the English word is used for a series of ancient Egyptian titles, which presumably reflected different responsibilities but are difficult to separate in practice—god’s servant, god’s father, and pure.


Quoted from “Exploring religion in ancient Egypt“ © 2015 Stephen Quirke

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