Resolving alleged conflicts between the Bible and other accounts of Egyptian history
Published: 11 August 2013 (GMT+10)
Is the subject of synchronizing the history timelines of the Bible and ancient Egypt important? Does a revised chronology even matter in the creation–evolution debate?
J.M. wrote in with a very pertinent question after reading a CMI web article on chronology revision: Egyptian history and the biblical record: a perfect match?
Having just read this article, it ends by saying research is being done and building up on the subject but this was 6 years ago. Is there no update on all this aligning/dating?
Creationist Egyptology expert Patrick Clarke responds:
Thank you for raising the question regarding work taking place on the subject of research into the disparity between ancient Egyptian and Bible chronologies. I can sympathize with your frustrations that no updates appear to be forthcoming. This is in part due to the complete absence of any progress on revising the defective Egyptian chronology by most of the six people (seven if Anderson, the article’s author, is included) mentioned in the opening section—Advocates of chronological revision—of the article you have recently read. In fact the article in general is largely a recapitulation of Ashton and Down’s book, Unwrapping the Pharaohs, and offers no new information to add to the then already established ideas of the psychiatrist Immanuel Velikovsky.
The article you refer to was published in 2007. At that time, I had already spent almost two decades investigating the concept of a revision of ancient Egypt’s chronology. The subject matters a great deal, as the contradictions between this and the very straightforward chronology derivable from the Bible are often used to discredit Scripture. However, though sympathetic to the need for revision, I was not convinced by Velikovsky’s arguments and felt that any reconstruction of the chronological synchronism between Bible and ancient Egypt should be conducted in a scholarly manner. There were several other scholars who, like myself, agreed that the Egyptian chronology is a shambles and needs revision downwards (and some of them are, like Velikovsky, not Bible-believers) but who had come to similar conclusions about Velikovsky’s attempts in this regard.
Around this time some well-meaning creationists, enamoured by Velikovsky’s claims, began to publish articles, papers and books. What finally convinced me that a measured response was needed came with the publication of the abovementioned book by Ashton and Down. I discovered many problems with their attempt at synchronizing the Bible’s historical time-line with that of ancient Egypt. I regularly point out in my writings that, in order to produce a credible revised chronology, expertise from an Egyptological perspective, particularly in regard to the language, is an absolute must.1
Anderson’s article, published a few months later, was little more than an endorsement of Ashton and Down’s book and none of these three writers, as far as I am aware, have or even claim to have the requisite expertise in Egyptology. Unfortunately, because of the penetration of a lot of erroneous Velikovskian concepts into some creationist thinking, the process of establishing a biblically and historically credible chronology revision necessarily involves first painstakingly dismantling some of these notions.
In the course of this, it is understandable that some who have pinned hopes onto this have felt as if exposing the errors in the Velikovsky-inspired chronology (VIC) is undermining support for the Bible. I assure you that is not the case, and that it will emerge that following the VIC to its logical conclusion ends up undermining the Bible’s credibility. My starting point is the absolute reliability of God’s Word in all matters, including chronological, and thus that the conventional Egyptian chronology needs serious downwards revision. It should therefore not be a surprise to hear that I am confident that what will in due course emerge is a chronology that confirms the Bible’s credibility without contradicting the historical data revealed by sound Egyptological scholarship.
Since August 2010 I have had a series of papers and letters published in CMI’s Journal of Creation. I don’t know if you are a subscriber to this journal, but this is where you can find much on this issue. I cannot promise any ‘instant’ answers as it will take the publication of several more papers, thus likely a number of years, to fully develop the chronology. At the end of this reply is the current list of Journal of Creation issues containing up-to-date papers on this subject. It would not be appropriate to write a layman’s article on this yet (e.g. in Creation magazine) until the technical papers have proceeded to the appropriate point. Such progressive publication also permits people to see how the points made can withstand post-publication criticism, which also adds to the overall timeframe till completion.
Several of my earlier papers are now available as pdf’s:
The following more recent papers and letters can be obtained as back issues from CMI as they are not yet available as PDF:
Volume 26, Issue 3, December 2012—Egyptian coins in the time of Joseph, pp. 85–91.
Volume 27, Issue 1, April 2013—The Stele of Merneptah—assessment of the final ‘Israel’ strophe and its implications for chronology, pp. 57–64.
There are also other papers that will hopefully appear in future issues of Journal of Creation that will further build towards a credible revised chronology. If you don’t already subscribe to the journal, may I encourage you to perhaps consider taking out a subscription and keep abreast not only with developments in chronology, but also in other cutting-edge research across the creation science spectrum. In short, ‘stay tuned’.
- I realise, by the way, that both authors are known as staunch and effective defenders of biblical truth. And they may well have expertise in other areas, even related ones, for all I can judge; I am referring here to what confronted me in this book relevant to my own area of expertise. Return to text.
Herodotus visited Egypt around 430BC and tells us who built the pyramids and when they were built. He reports: "A hundred thousand men laboured constantly, and were relieved every three months by a fresh lot. It took ten years' oppression of the people to make the causeway, for the conveyance of the stones, a work not much inferior, in my judgment, to the pyramid itself." Extract from Herodotus - 430 BC. ('The Histories, Vol II) The Great Pyramid is attributed to Khufu (Cheops). The middle-sized pyramid is attributed to Khafra (Chephren). The smallest of the three is attributed to Menkaura (Mycerinus). Herodotus account fits the true Biblical history nicely and of course he is closer to the time of the pyramids than Manetho who lived over 100 years later. Manetho was a priest and scribe of Heliopolis under Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247BC) Modern Egyptologists use him as their primary source for dating instead of Herodotus. Herodotus account fits many facts better - such as the “Arch” used in Greece no earlier than the 7th Century – was already being used in the tombs of the pyramid builders of Egypt (9th Century BC) – from whom the Greeks most likely got the skill. Just some thoughts. Love your ministry.
Many years ago, while teaching my children at home, I began the search for a revised Egyptian chronology. I realized that it was essential to harmonizing secular history with a biblical chronology. Since that time I have read many, many attempts at that task, including Down and Ashton, and James, et al. I quickly realized that neither went far enough in their revisions, and continued to search.
About ten to fifteen years ago I found the revisions proposed by James Reilly. He has a four-volume set of books, published on the internet (although the first is available in hard-copy form) that meets that criteria. I know that his material is not well-known, as few people I meet have heard of it.
The author of the above article is interested in seeing some revision that is scholarly and doesn't rely exclusively on a single source that is somewhat questionable in its accuracy. Reilly definitely meets that requirement. While I don't think that summarizing his work here is either fair to him or possible because of space, I will challenge this author to investigate Reilly's work thoroughly. His works use the original inscriptions of Egypt, and he is well-qualified to evaluate and discuss the multitude of these original texts.
His revision is radical, but a radical revision is necessary! You can find his work at Displaced Dynasties on the internet. [Link removed as per comment policy]
I challenge the author of this article, and any others interested to completely and fairly investigate this revision.
Thanks for posting this. I have long regarded the Velikovsky-inspired chronologies as rather haphazard.
After a lot of study of likely synchronisms between the Biblical and Egyptian chronologies, my personal conclusion is that the conventional Egyptian chronology is largely sound at least as far back as the time of Moses. Any revisions to the Egyptian chronology should be located earlier than this, perhaps in the form of codynastic periods.
Herodotus reports in Egyptians built the pyramids in 7-8th century BC. Later on Manetho writes differently. Modern Egyptologist should trust Herodotus over Manetho for many reasons - 1 of which Herodotus's account fits biblical true history.
I thought David Rohl settled a lot of the conflicted dates. "Pharaohs & Kings"
I find that the work of David Rohl is fascinating in this regard. He IS a professional Egyptologist (among other things). I am not such, but like Clarke I have found many of the creationist chronological revisions very unconvincing - some have seemed little more than identifying really significant early Pharoah's with bible events and then forcing everything to fit. However, Rohl's work I find convincing, not just because it makes huge sense of great swathes of bible history and archaeology, but also solves huge problems in Greek, Anatolian, Roman, Hittite, Trojan and other ANE and Eastern Mediterranean archaeologies / chronologies, as witnessed by his most recent book 'The Lords of Avaris'.
My understanding is that Clarke's coming revision, which will take some years to fully develop/expound in print, will not agree exactly with Rohl, either, but both Rohl and Clarke seem to agree that revisions that follow Velikoksky, which have tended to dominate creationist thinking, have serious problems. It seems that there is a very strong case for shortening the conventional chronology coming from both Christian and non-Christian scholars alike, since there are extrabiblical issues in archaeology that clash with this convention. However, the details remain to be worked out. Clarke is committed to the authority of the biblical chronology, yet is passionate about ensuring that his proposal does not clash with sound Egyptological deductions either. Time will tell--meanwhile stay tuned by subscribing to Journal of Creation.