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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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the name of a mythical Egyptian bird, supposed by some to be a kind of plover, like the kibitz, often depicted with human arms, and called in hieroglyphs rekh. Others consider it to be the bennu, or nycticorax, a bird sacred to Osiris, and represented watching in the tamarisk over his coffin. The first of these representations has sometimes a star upon the head, supposed to indicate the astronomical period of its appearance. It visited Egypt after the death of its father, and entered the shrine particularly dedicated to it at Heliopolis, and there buried its parent, putting the body into an egg or case made of myrrh, and then closing up the egg. Another account is that the Phoenix, when about to die, made a nest for itself in Arabia, from which a new Phoenix sprang of itself. This bird proceeded to Heliopolis, and there burned and buried its father. But the more popularly known version is that the Phoeniix burned itself, and a new and young Phoenix sprang from the ashes. A less received version is that a worm crawled out of the body of the dead Phoenix, and became the future one. The Phoenix was, according to the most authentic accounts, supposed to visit Egypt every five hundred years; the precise period, however, was not known at Heliopolis, and was a subject of contention till its appearance. The connection of the Phoenix period with that of the Sothiac cycle, appears to be generally received by chronologists, as well as the statement of Horapollo, that it designated the soul and the inundation of the Nile. A great difference of opinion has prevailed about the Phoenix period: according to AElian, it was a cycle of 500 years; Tacitus seems to make it one of 250 years; Lepsius, a cycle of 1500 years. The Phoenix was fabled to have four times appeared in Egypt: 1, under Sesostris; 2, under Amasis, 569-525 B.C.; 3, under Ptolemy PhiIadelphus, 284246 B.C.; and lastly, 34 or 36 A.D., just prior to the death of Tiberius. The Phoenix also appears upon the coins of Constantine, 334 A.D, viz. 300 years after the death of Christ, who was considered the Phoenix by the monastic writers. It is supposed by the rabbins to be mentioned in the Bible (Job 29:18; Psalms 103:5). See Herodotts, 2:73; Achilles Tatius, 3:25; Tacitus, An. 6:28; Tselzes, Chil. 5:397; Lepsius, Einleit. page 183; Archaeologia, 30:256. The East is full of fables resembling the phoenix. Thus the Simorg of the ancient Persians is said to have witnessed twelve catastrophes, and may yet see many- more. It has built its nest on Mount Kaf, and perched upon the branches of the Yogard, or tree of life; it predicts good or evil to mortals. Similar legends are to be found connected with the Rokh of the Arabians and Semeneda of the Hindds. The Jews also have their sacred bird Tsiks. See Gardner, Faiths of the World, 2:655, 656.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Phoenix'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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