In case you missed it, Thinking Man Films (who produced the Patterns of Evidence: Exodus documentary) left a comment on the analysis of the film, bringing out three points, which I thought deserved a fuller treatment. You can read their comment and my reply here (scroll down). These are the three points:
1. ““What if is the standard Egyptian chronology that is wrong?” This was, in fact, the controversial possibility that the final segment of the film focused on.”
2. “There is nothing said in the Bible that requires the pharaoh of the Exodus to be the most powerful king in Egypt’s history. That is an idea inserted into the text and supported by Hollywood’s version of the story.”
3. “As covered in the film, the use of the term “Rameses” in Exodus 1:11 does not mandate that the events of Exodus 1:11 happened during the reign of Ramesses II, since Rameses is also mentioned in Genesis 47:11 for the land that Jacob’s family moved to.”
So today, let’s look at the problem of the standard Egyptian chronology.
Yes, the film did explore the possibility that the standard Egyptian chronology is wrong, as it is currently accepted today. It takes courage to buck the system. From what I understood of the film, the error proposed for the standard Egyptian chronology is that it is too long by several hundred years, which causes archaeologists to look in the wrong place for evidence of Israelites, but its essential order is correct. When I say, “Wrong,” however, I am considering a more fundamental error. What if the whole system of Old, Middle, and New Kingdom division and progression is wrong? What if there are names in the standard dynastic lists that are duplicated, corrupting the whole scheme? The standard Egyptian chronology is based on Manetho, who is accepted without question. But consider this essay from the Biblical Chronology Newsletter (the whole essay is too long to reproduce here, but below is the relevant portion discussing Manetho, all the emphasis is my own):
As mentioned above, Manetho was an Egyptian priest who wrote in the 2nd or 3rd centuries BC. His history of Egypt, the Aegyptiaca, is now lost, but “summaries and ostensible extracts survive in a number of later works, notably those of Josephus (1st century AD), Julius Africanus (3rd century AD), Eusebius (4th century AD), and Syncellus (c. 800 AD). These preserve, in different and often contradictory versions, an Epitome, giving the names and reign-lengths of the Egyptian pharaohs, arranged into a system of thirty Dynasties or ruling houses. The sequence begins with the unification of Egypt by King Menes, founder of the 1st Dynasty, and ends with Nectanebo II, the last native pharaoh” (p. 223). Everything we have of Manetho is found in Manetho, translated and annotated by W. G. Waddell (Loeb Classical Library: Cambridge: Harvard U. Press, 1940). …
There is another very important reason to question Manetho’s list, and that is the probable reason for his writing it in the first place. Virtually every civilization in the ancient world sought to claim the greatest antiquity, and histories were produced to show that each was the oldest. The reason for this is not only to glorify the nation, but also to establish imperial claims.
This is not just an ancient phenomenon. Not too long ago, German historians were diligently falsifying and inventing history in order to prove the seniority and superiority of the Aryan race. …
The Babylonian priest Berossus presents us a dynasty of 86 kings who reigned for no less than 33,091 years. His contemporary, Manetho, produced a similar claim regarding the earliest, divine rulers of Egypt. Manetho expert W. G. Waddell suggests that
“The works of Manetho and Berossus may be interpreted as an expression of the rivalry of the two kings, Ptolemy and Antiochus, each seeking to proclaim the great antiquity of his land” (p. 292). [Loeb edition: Manetho, p. x.]
Everyone admits that these are fictional exaggerations, but when it comes to Manetho’s dynasties, the admission is not so forthcoming. Moreover, no such skepticism is found concerning the Assyrian King List, on which so much of ancient near eastern chronology currently depends.
The reason for this blindness is not hard to discern. It lies in the presuppositional hostility of secular scholarship for the Bible. If Manetho cannot be trusted, scholarship must rely much more heavily on the Bible, and that is not regarded as acceptable. That evangelical scholars have been so willing to play along with the palpable errors of secular scholarship is a monument to their unwillingness to face the hard questions. We are compelled to turn to a Seventh-Day Adventist and to secular scholars to find challenges to the regnant folly.
We shall let W. G. Waddell, the editor of Manetho, have the last word:
“But there were many errors in Manetho’s work from the very beginning: all are not due to the perversions of scribes and revisers. Many of the lengths of reigns have been found impossible: in some cases the names and sequence of kings as given by Manetho have proved untenable in the light of monumental evidence. If one may depend upon the extracts preserved in Josephus, Manetho’s work was not an authentic history of Egypt, exact in its details, as the Chaldaica of Berossus was, at least for later times. Manetho introduced into an already corrupted series of dynastic lists a number of popular traditions written in the characteristic Egyptian style. No genuine historical sense had been developed among the Egyptians, although Manetho’s work does illustrate the influence of Greek culture upon an Egyptian priest.” (Loeb edition: Manetho pp. xxv-xxvi.) …
The 20th century will go down as an era of tremendous error as regards the history and chronology of the ancient world. The consensus chronology, used by secular scholars and Christian scholars alike, is built on fiction, creates huge problems with the history of every culture of the ancient world, and is collapsing today. Believing Christians can rejoice at this development, but students must be aware that virtually every Bible Dictionary article, Bible Encyclopedia article, and Old Testament commentary written in this century is replete with error wherever it discusses links between Bible history and the history of the ancient world.
James B. Jordan, __The Egyptian Problem__, Biblical Chronology Newsletter, Vol. 6, No. 1, January, 1994.
It is with the consensus chronology that Patterns of Evidence: Exodus admirably takes issue, but not with its fundamental structure – just in its dating. That is how it appeared to me in viewing the film. Jacob Bryant, in Ancient Mythology, writing decades before the discoveries of archaeology that opened up a greater window on the history of the ancient world, addresses the problem of Manetho’s already corrupted series of dynastic lists, taking his scholarship strictly from the writings left to us from the ancient world itself. I need to get his essays transcribed! Volumes 1-2 of Bryant’s Ancient Mythology are online at Project Gutenberg, and Volume 3 is online at Anno Mundi Books, but the essays in question, which directly address the problems with Manetho and his dynastic lists of the Egyptians, are all in Volume 4. Here is a snip of them, courtesy of the Ancient History index at Anno Mundi Books.
To me, Bryant’s logic in dissecting the accuracy of Manetho was devastating. Keep watching this space for the transcription of these essays!