If Volume I shocked you, wait until you read Volume II
Continuing his astonishing study of Egyptian influences on the Book of Genesis, Gary Greenberg moves from Egypt’s historical chronology to its mythological chronology, meticulously uncovering the biblical book’s deep dependence on Egyptian sources for some of its most famous stories, including the seven days of creation, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Flood, and the family of nations descended from Ham, Shem, and Japheth.
Despite the biblical narrative showing that Israel’s formative period as a nation took place in Egypt, almost all biblical scholars and Egyptologists refuse to take such claims seriously, rarely looking at anything more than an occasional peripheral link. Greenberg’s thorough scholarly examination of the biblical and Egyptological sources tears through this “papyrus curtain” and presents clear and convincing evidence that the original authors of Genesis worked from a solid knowledge of Egypt’s literary and historical sources and used them as the basis of the Bible’s primeval history.
When I began work on the second volume, I thought it would go rather quickly since it covered a much smaller portion of the Genesis chronology, and I assumed it would be a good bit shorter than the previous volume I. Instead, when I got to the formatting stage, it was shocked to discover that it was about 50 per cent longer than Volume I. In fact, it is the second longest book I have written, weighing in at over 400 pages.
Volume II, covering Egypt’s Mythological Chronology is now completed and, barring any more glitches (Microsoft Word can throw a lot your way) the book should be released by September 5th, in both hardcopy and paperback. I think it’s a terrific read if you’re into this aspect of Egyptian and biblical history. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, perhaps shocked, by many of the revelations.
Over the next few days, I’ll post some further information on the book. I also plan to make a few complimentary copies available to my subscribers. Stay tuned for details of the offer.
I have been advised by Peter Lang Publishers that a paperback version of “The Case for a Proto-Gospel”, my peer-reviewed treatise on the literary origins of the Gospels, should be at the printers by mid-June. Because this is an academic work from a scholarly publisher, it is not cheap, but the paperback edition will be substantially less expensive that the hardcover version.
Editorial note: I originally intended to wrap up this series with the present post, but it was becoming far longer than I expected. So, I am publishing it in at least three parts. The present essay is “My Take: the Parameters.” The follow-up post will be My Take: a Proposed Date for the Exodus. The final post, I hope, will be My Take: the Exodus in its Historical Context.
To establish a plausible date for the Exodus, we need to find a balance among four different parameters. (1) Do we date biblical events using the traditional Jewish date of Creation at 3761 BCE, or do we have to move the Creation date back to an earlier time? (2) Do we use biblical dating or historical dating? (3) Do we date events in Egypt based on the High Chronology or the Low Chronology? (4) Does the chosen Exodus date show a parallel relationship between the events in the biblical account and events in Egypt?
Because of potential plausibility issues in the biblical story, such as miracles, conflicts within the biblical chronological data, and conflicts over the Egyptian chronology, there may not be a perfect solution that precisely aligns all four factors. However, whatever date presents the best balance among these four parameters is likely to be the best solution.
In my book, Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-Lists: The Egyptian Origins of Genesis Chronology, Volume I, Egypt’s Dynastic Period, I examined the relationship between Genesis Chronology and Egyptian Chronology. Genesis has a chronology that provides a continuous record of Patriarchal birth and death dates running through twenty-three generations, beginning with the birth of Adam and ending with the death of Joseph. If one had a fixed date for any of these births or deaths, one could establish a set of dates for each birth and death in the sequence. Using the traditional Jewish date of Creation, I calculated each of these birth and death dates.
Chaeremon, an Egyptian priest who tutored Emperor Nero, wrote a version of the Exodus story that had a number of similarities to Manetho’s Osarseph story but had enough differences to suggest that he worked from a different source than Manetho did. If so, then there would have been multiple versions of Egyptian Exodus accounts in the Egyptian libraries. You may want to first reread the Osarseph theory in Part 7 to refresh your recollection as there will be some references to that installment.
Chaeremon wrote in the first century and was a contemporary of Josephus. The latter was responsible for preserving Chaeremon’s account. (See Against Apion 1.32–33. You can read Josephus’s account and his comments here.) Here is what he says.
Genesis 15:13–16 is the source of the biblical claim that Israel suffered 400 years of bondage in Egypt. The passage, as I‘ll reiterate below, is inconsistent with the claim that Israel sojourned in Egypt for 430 years. There are also several problems with the internal content. The verse reads as follows.
Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years; but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your ancestors in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete. (Genesis 15:13–16 NSRV)”
This passage has several parts. (1) Abraham’s offspring will be slaves in a land where they are “aliens” (per the NRSV) or “strangers (per the KJV). (2) the oppression will last 400 years. (3) “They” shall return “here” in the fourth generation. (4) They won’t return to “here” until the iniquity of the Amorites has ended.
The passage generates many interpretive problems, at least for me. Implicitly, “here” is in Canaan, which is where the narrative context places Abraham. Just about all scholars accept that the “strange land” that afflicted Israel is Egypt and the return is to Canaan. This interpretation strikes me as wrong because, in all other biblical passages referring to the patriarchs as strangers in a land, it is Canaan that is the strange land. I’ll discuss that point further below. Let’s look at some of the chronological problems first.
Belief in the Exodus, as described in the Jewish scriptures, is arguably the single most important event in Jewish culture and plays a significant role in Christian religion. Even though the Bible contains numerous chronological data points for the year in which this event would have happened, establishing a reliable scholarly and religious consensus and appropriate chronological context based on biblical and historical data for such a date remains one of the most difficult problems in biblical scholarship. There are many reasons for this, chief among them being the lack of any archaeological evidence for the existence of such a massive occurrence and the inconsistencies and contradictions among the biblical chronologies.
Sorry for the long delay in substantive posting. I’ve been busy on several projects that have tied me up, including the preparation and presentation of papers at conferences and, most importantly, my follow up to Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-Lists: The Egyptian Origins of Genesis History, Volume I: Egypt’s Dynastic Period. In Volume II, I take on Egypt’s mythic god-king lists and Genesis 1–11, what is routinely referred to as the bible’s primeval history. The latter encompasses the stories of creation, Adam and Eve and their offspring, the story of Noah and the Flood, and several genealogies and chronologies. I’m trying to finish it up and get it into print by the spring of 2022.It will have lots of surprising revelations.
One of the areas that I devote a good deal of time to is the story of Noah’s Flood and whether its current narrative location is original to the earlier biblical sources. This is a question that a number of biblical scholars ask. The general consensus, I believe, is that the flood is a late addition to the narrative and based on either the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic (mid first millennium B.C.E.) or a common source shared by both. I, as you might expect, take an entirely different tack. Removing the flood story from its present location has some interesting ramifications for some of my genealogical and chronological arguments.
Here I want to link you to a recent article, The Original Primeval History of the Hebrews, that appeared on The Torah.Com, that argues that the original sources for Genesis 1–11 lacked the flood story. It cites some of the arguments I make against the present narrative location. I disagree, however, with most of the literary analysis concerning the remaining portions of the primeval history, although much of that literary analysis is consistent with mainstream biblical scholarship.
It will be the argument in the second volume of Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-Lists that the story of Noah’s flood originally derived from an Egyptian creation myth associated with the city of Hermopolis, and that narrative appeared in the account of the first day of creation (which belongs to the “P” source). In that story, four males and their four wives appear in the primeval deep and animate Re, the Hermopolitan creator deity, who raises a mountain out of the waters so that he would have a place to stand. As he emerges from the deep, the [benben/phoenix] bird of light flies off. The second day of creation (also “P”) featured the Egyptian creation myth from the city of Heliopolis. Separate from P’s days of creation narrative, the J source gives us a different creation story somewhat inconsistent with the P version. That narrative includes the stories of Adam and Eve and their offspring. I argue that the J narrative is part of the Heliopolitan source that takes placed on P’s account of the second and third days of creation.
Long after, during the Babylonian exile and Persian periods, the Hebrews became heavily influenced by the Mesopotamian cultures and began to modify some of their earlier Egyptian-based stories in order to harmonize Hebrew history with Mesopotamian history. It is in that era when the original Flood story was moved from the first day of creation to the Tenth generation of humanity, consistent with some Mesopotamian flood sources. The one piece of the story that remained in place was the light created on the first day.
Gary Greenberg, The Case for a Proto-Gospel: Recovering the Common Written Source behind Mark and John, Studies in Biblical Literature 172 (New York—Bern: Lang, 2020, $114.95/€95.80) xvii and 719 pp., 22 tables. Bibliographies. Indexed. LCN: 2019029929. ISBN: 978-1-4331-6605-1.
Noting that NT scholars believe with near unanimity that substantial differences in style, content, and verbal description between John and the Synoptics preclude any literary relationship between them, Greenberg, author of Proving Jesus’ Authority in Mark and John (2018), proposes that Mark, John, and Luke all knew a now-lost written proto-Gospel. After a 35-page introduction, he discusses Mark 6 and 8 and John 6, the paralytic on the mat (Mk 2:1-12; Jn 5), true kindred and the devil (Mk 3:20-35; Jn 8:31-59), you can’t go home again (Mk 6:1-6, Jn 4:44; 6:42; 7:15), the mission begins (Mk 1; Jn 1–4), Jesus’ last visit to Jerusalem, the plot to kill Jesus, the Jewish trial of Jesus, the Lazarus conundrum (Jn 11:1-44; Lk 16:19-31; Mk 1:40-45; 5:22-24, 35-43), the Roman proceedings, the crucifixion, the day of Preparation, and the resurrection. Then he presents a proposed reconstructed proto-Gospel with brief commentary. He concludes that Mark and John most probably have a literary relationship based on a shared written source, since almost every non-speech episode in John has a literary parallel in Mark, the two Gospels agree on sequential order in approximately two-thirds of such stories, and in several stories outside the sequential order several details also follow a common sequential order.