Who is wrong about the biblical date of the Flood, and the Great Pyramid?
Somebody must be wrong somewhere …
John B from the UK writes into CMI questioning the article Time fears the pyramids? How they fit into the true biblical history by Gavin Cox, who, together with Gary Bates, responds.
I am still unsure about the dates you give for the pyramids. Somebody must be wrong somewhere, I think, because what concerns me is the non refutable fact that, if the pyramids were built after the flood, then there must be the issue of how quickly deep limestone quarries were solidified. Unless they used water logged sediments to build them, which would not have been strong enough to support the weight, there seems to me there is no way that they were built so soon after the flood. This means that the pyramids would be older than you believe, and so is the time of the flood, which I think must have been at least 6000 years ago, but I know this throws the so called Bible timeline out quite considerably! Something definitely doesn’t add up, especially as the building blocks of the pyramids contain sedimentary fossils. There appear to be similar problems with other major archaeological finds, where date times don’t add up against biblical chronology, irrespective of C14 dating and Bishop Usher’s timeline. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am a Biblical creationist Christian, but the dates you always quote for the Great flood, are, to me, far too late, despite the biblical chronology. If it weren’t for the pyramids, ultimately, I could accept your timelines and reasoning, but the pyramids must have been built, either much more recently, at least 1000 years post flood, or the flood occurred at least 1000 years before, which surely must be the most likely scenario?
Thanks for contacting Gavin with your question regarding the age of the pyramids from his article Time fears the pyramids? How they fit into the true biblical history. You state:
“I am still unsure about the dates you give for the pyramids.”
Us too. Unfortunately, the builders didn’t inscribe on Khufu’s Pyramid “we built this in 2589–2504 BC” somewhere on an internal wall—so archaeologists could find it centuries later and solve the riddle of when the Great Pyramid was built. Had they done so, archaeologists would know the date inscription was fake, because the Egyptians obviously did not foresee when Jesus would be born, as per our normal calendars today.
Much of the dates that we see today that are ascribed to virtually everything in ancient Egypt are based upon a chronology written by the Egyptian priest Manetho in his work The Aegyptiaca (the History of Egypt). Remember, that the Egyptians had no calendar like we do today. They derived periods or dated things in relation to other rulers who had died previously.
Of course this raises the question as to whether all these kings were directly related to each other, descended from one another etc., or if Manetho has linked them in such a way to ‘fill in the gaps’. I.e. did all these rulers reign concurrently or consecutively? Regarding how the Egyptians dated things, Gary states the following from his Framing the Issues article:
“Just how are dates assigned to these kingdom periods and their rulers? In our modern age we can research the life of a relatively recent monarch (compared to Egyptian history). For example, we might say that the British Queen Victoria lived from 1819 to 1901 AD. When we see the name of an Egyptian pharaoh with a similar regnal date next to it, our natural inclination is to presume these are accurate and were recorded in the same way we do today. However, no such standardized calendar system existed in ancient times. Although they understood a year as a timeframe (mainly due to seasons and astronomical observations), they did not count dates like we do today. Instead, they counted the number of years a king reigned and if necessary, added a gap of a few years before the reign of the next monarch and so on. But when attempting to construct a proper backward order of those kings from a specific known time to develop a timeline, one has to presume that the king lists we have are accurate, and it is known that they are not. Even secular archaeologists admit it is all a mess. Egyptologist Sir Alan Gardiner wrote that:
‘Even when full use has been made of the king lists and of such subsidiary sources as have survived, the indispensable dynastic framework of Egyptian history shows lamentable gaps and many a doubtful attribution … What is proudly advertised as Egyptian history is merely a collection of rags and tatters.’”
There are also other problems with trying to work out the accuracy of the names of the kings that Manetho referred to because each pharaoh typically had five ruling titles (Horus name, Nebti name, Golden Horus name, Prenomen name, and the Nomen (birth) name). Furthermore, Manetho was writing in Greek and so we have to rely on his Greek transliterations from the Egyptian names he chose to record. For further information, see this section in Gary’s article called Manetho’s Dates. Manetho created 30 dynasties in an effort to record Egyptian history. “However, he did not use the term [dynasty] in the modern sense, by bloodlines, but rather, introduced new dynasties whenever he detected some sort of discontinuity.”1 We know for sure that his chronology is demonstrably wrong on many counts, as he deliberately extended Egyptian chronology for political point-scoring, most likely to counter the Greek historian Herodotus who was also writing a history of the Greeks.
Many Egyptologists are starting to believe that many of the earliest rulers were actually reigning concurrently. Specifically, two pharaohs could be ruling at the same time, one in the north, one in the south, or even in smaller regions. Possibly, there were even more complex ruler-relationships early in the Egyptian empire, with several chieftains ruling at the same time in Egypt, and that some dynasties might not have existed at all.
To recap, there are no (independent) dates on these pharaonic monuments dedicated to kings (and gods) scattered across Egypt. Primarily, the listing of kings have been strung together in a sequence, first by Manetho, and then followed by modern Egyptologists, and from this, a chronology has been developed that accounts for the dates commonly seen in the textbooks. We have produced a working biblical timeline in our new Tour Egypt booklet that you might be interested in.
If the secular timeline is wrong, why are we trying to make ‘the Bible fit’ with it?
That being the case, then supposedly concurrent ruler-relations need to be collapsed in order to arrive at a correct chronology, thus, greatly decreasing the overall time scale. Archaeological remains from the pre-dynastic and early dynasties are very scant to make any absolute claims, so no-one can be dogmatic as to the exact dates for many of the earliest kings in Egypt or when it all began.
Gary Bates’s Framing the Issues article states the following:
“One of the main areas used to strongly challenge the biblical dates for creation (c. 4000 BC) and the Great Flood (c. 2450 BC), is that of the conventional chronological dates assigned to Egyptian history. Aside from the mythical and highly questionable pre-dynastic period (c. 5000 BC), for which there is scant archaeological evidence, the first Egyptian dynasty is now conventionally believed to have begun under King Narmer (Menes in Greek) or Aha, or both contemporaneously, around 3400 BC. This was due to the discovery of the Narmer Palette in 1897 which contained the earliest depiction of an Egyptian king and some of the earliest hieroglyphic inscription ever found. It was subsequently dated to the 31st century BC. Whatever it does actually represent it was supposedly made some c. 900 years before the global Flood of Noah’s time, which would make its survival impossible.”
So for the first Egyptian Dynasty date, how did Egyptologists determine it started c.3400 BC? We need to recognize, it is not a starting point—it is actually an end-point. Egyptologists have worked backwards sequentially using Manetho’s list of dynasties in an attempt to derive a beginning date. What Gavin tried to do in his article was to put the building of Khufu’s Great Pyramid in biblical context, and not give an exact date, because we don’t know it. All that can be said, for the moment, is that it was built after Babel, maybe a century or so, to allow for a work-force large enough to develop, but still allow for the rest of the country to function. Again, our Tour Egypt booklet has a wonderful population growth model (using maximum and minimum variables) after Babel and even with the minimum parameters, there could have been a large enough workforce in Egypt to build the 4th Dynasty pyramids.
The pyramids exist because of the Flood
So, hopefully, you do recognize, it is untenable to place the pyramid’s construction pre-Flood, because of the geological evidence. (I.e. the pyramid blocks containing fossils, like nummulites, which are found in vast numbers within the limestone, no evidence of water erosion on the limestone casing blocks, etc.). However, you are mistaken to think in terms of long ages to create solid rock. CREATION.com has made a pastime out of collecting many examples of speedy rock formation for the very reason of refuting long-aged uniformitarian ideas that demand rock requires vast eons of time to form. See for instance these linked articles from Creation magazine:
- Speedy stone by David Catchpoole;
- Rapid rock. Unexpected application for hard-rock recipe by Tas Walker;
- Rapid rocks. Granites … they didn’t need millions of years of cooling, by Andrew Snelling and John Woodmorappe;
- A case for rapid formation of calcareous concretions by Michael J. Oard;
and a whole section in CREATION.com that includes speedy geology.
It is also interesting to note, that both the Ancient Egyptians and the Romans were pouring concrete underwater to form structures. The (salt) water is needed to drive the chemical binding of the constituents. Although, not exactly the same, water is also required for natural rock to form, whereby crystals of calcite form, interlocking the sediment grains, and the presence of volcanic ash also aids lithification, like natural concrete.
Or for example stalactite formation, is considered a long-age icon, requiring vast amounts of time to form from a small amount of material (CaCO3) deposited in each drop of water. When uniformitarian thinking is stripped away, and the facts allowed to speak, then these geological formations can easily be explained to have formed quickly, and don’t require the vast eons of time assigned to them by secular geologists. So, it’s not about time, it’s about conditions—and having plenty of water around speeds things up hugely.
You say: “Something definitely doesn’t add up” we agree; it is uniformitarian thinking being added to the Bible that doesn’t add up. Many Christians want to have a foot in both camps, i.e. long age thinking and the Bible. However, the clear historical testimony of Scripture is of a youthful earth, around 6000 years old, according to the Masoretic time line, with a global Flood some 1656 years after Creation (c. 2350 BC). This rules out dates of up to 10,000 years and more, and certainly millions of years of slow and gradual processes.
You say: “I am a Biblical creationist Christian, but the dates you always quote for the Great flood, are, to me, far too late, despite the biblical chronology.”
But the dates for the Flood we give are from the Bible (Masoretic chronology, even the Septuagint timeline will not add an extra 1000 years as you suggest for a date of the Flood, see this article called Textual traditions and biblical chronology. So if you can’t trust the chronology of the Bible, then what are you basing your ideas of history on? It feels like you want to have one foot in the Bible and the other in uniformitarian thinking.
You state: “If it weren’t for the pyramids, ultimately, I could accept your timelines and reasoning…”
Well, we hope we have given you enough lines of reasoning and more reading to show why your hesitancy is not warranted. The pyramids are simply not as old as you think they are. Why subscribe to their conventional dates when there is so much disagreement even in secular circles? Moreover, their dates are being revised all the time based upon things like carbon-14 dating.
You state: “the flood occurred at least 1000 years before, which surely must be the most likely scenario?”
1000 years before what? Are you then demanding the Bible’s timeline be stretched out 1000 years? Based on your assumptions about when the pyramids were built? The Bible cannot be made to stretch its chronology that much—on what basis? You would then be saying the Bible misses out 1/6th of history, that’s a huge chunk. I wouldn’t want to trust a book that claims to teach the history of the world up to later stages, but then misses out 1/6th. No, start with God’s Word and work out from there, you won’t go far wrong.
We hope that helps.
References and notes
- Manetho, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manetho#Aegyptiaca, accessed 11 March 2021. Return to text.