Meanwhile, in Egypt…

Mummy portraitThere are records of Egyptian civilisation going back three millennia before the Roman conquest in 33BC, with nothing to say of the Flood, or the Tower of Babel, or the Exodus; and I write as an excuse to exhibit this gorgeous mummy portrait, encaustic from the third century.

Onywye. Bishop Ussher, and Answers in Genesis, put the flood at 2450 BC or 2348 BC. Other literalists put it as early as 3835 BC. By Genesis 11:10-32 there were nine generations between Shem son of Noah and Abraham, or 292 years after the Flood. Sometime in this, the Tower of Babel story happened (Genesis 11:1-9) though Genesis 10:31 describes separate peoples with separate languages as the descendants of Joktan, five generations below Shem. It is hard not to see contradictions in all this. Ussher put the Tower of Babel at 2242 BC, and claimed God appeared to Moses in the burning bush in 1491 BC.

3835 BC is in the Naqada 1 period of Upper Egypt, before writing. Naqada is a cemetery of three thousand graves discovered in 1892. The Fayum-13burials are simple: the body lies in the foetal position wrapped in animal skin, with simple offerings of flint knives, ivory combs, and pottery. The graves were dated initially by the pottery, which Flinders Petrie hypothesised evolved gradually from globular vessels with functional handles to cylindrical forms with decorative handles.

2348 BC is the Fifth dynasty of the Old Kingdom, when Unas was king. (Pharaoh was a title from the New Kingdom.) Egyptian dates may be fifty years out at this period, and Unas was the last king of the fifth dynasty, succeeded by Teti. Dynastic numbering comes from Manetho, a historian from the 3rd century BC. However Teti’s chief wife was probably Unas’s daughter, and the change in numbering may come from moving the site of the royal palace, rather than a Flood.Mummy portrait

In 1491 BC the king was Thutmose II. At this time Egypt, united and prosperous, had conquered the Mediterranean coast as far north as Syria, where the trade routes from Mesopotamia to Africa circled the Arabian desert. Fleeing, Moses would have had to go a lot further than the Red Sea to evade the king (still not a Pharaoh). Egyptian records are not noted for candour: they boast of conquests, with pictures of a huge king bestriding tiny corpses of enemies, even where context indicates defeat; but there is no indication of ten plagues, or the deaths of the firstborn.

Ramesses II built the new capital of Piramesse in the 13th century BC, thought to be the city named in Exodus 1:11. At the end of that century, the Merenptah victory stele has the only mention of Israel in Egyptian records.

What have I achieved: not just mockery of literalist Biblical interpretation, but contrasting it with patient reasoning from archaeological evidence. This post is worth seeing for those pictures, made centuries after the real events described: especially the first, whose painter well those passions read, which yet survive. I have taken facts from The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, and worthless gibbering from Answers in Genesis.

4 thoughts on “Meanwhile, in Egypt…

  1. Very nice article! I enjoyed reading about the ancient Egyptians. As a scientist in Alabama, I often run into people quoting Answers in Genesis, especially in my Astronomy courses. It is really amazing how much influence they have, despite their poor understanding of the topics they write about.

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    • Welcome, Keith, and thank you for commenting.

      As a Christian, I loathe what they do: they state that respect for the Bible means you have to deny the honesty and sanity of most University staff, and assert something which even those without a University education, increasingly, can see is bunk. I turn my head to the left and see my fossil trilobite.

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