Monday, August 21, 2006

Did Any One Watch "Exodus Decoded" Last Night?

The 2-hour special on the History Channel was pretty wild, no?
I wish I could make graphics like that for my OT lectures! James Tabor has some high praise in his blog.

Of course, the tale that Jacobovici weaves is beyond credible in its overall form--for example, few scholars will be quick to accept hook, line, and sinker Josephus' old idea that the Hyksos were the Israelites. (But, could some of the Hyksos' experiences have gotten "grafted" into Israel??) Be that as it may, lots of interesting interviews with real scholars and lots of fascinating historical reconstructions in the show, no?

For example, just reading the Ahmose Stele is fascinating, since it shows how an Egyptian pharaoh would have reacted to the sorts of plagues (e.g., darkness, storms) that are pictured in the biblical narrative. The plagues directly challenge and surpass the power of Egyptian diety.

The stele was erected at Thebes by Ahmose, the first Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, and it documents a destructive storm accompanied by flooding c. 1500 BCE during his reign. Fragments of the stele were found in the 3rd Pylon of the temple of Karnak at Thebes between 1947 and 1951 by the French Mission. A restoration of the stele and translation of the text was published by Claude Vandersleyen (1967). In the following year (1968), Vandersleyen added two more fragments, one from the top of the inscription and a small piece from line 10 of the restored text, which had been recovered by Egyptian archaeologists in the final cleaning of the foundations.

Here is the text in English:
(7)... the gods expressed (8) their discontent ... The gods (made?) the sky come with a tempest of (rain?); it caused darkness in the Western region; the sky was (9) unleashed, without ... more than the roar of the crowd; ... was powerful... on the mountains more than the turbulence of the (10) cataract which is at Elephantine. Each house, ... each shelter (or each covered place) that they reached... (11) ... were floating in the water like the barks of papyrus on the outside?) of the royal residence for ... day(s), (12) with no one able to light the torch anywhere. Then His Majesty said 'How these (events) surpass the power of the great god and the wills of the divinities!' And His Majesty descended (13) in his boat, his council following him. The (people were?) at the east and the west, silent, for they had no more clothes (?) on them (14) after the power of the god was manifested. Then His Majesty arrived in Thebes ... this statue; it received what it had desired. (15) His Majesty set about to strengthen the two lands, to cause the water to evacuate without (the aid of) his (men?), to provide them with silver, (16) with gold, with copper, with oil, with clothing, with all the products they desired; after which His Majesty rested in the palace - life, health, strength. (17) It was then that His Majesty was informed that the funerary concessions had been invaded (by the water), that the sepulchral chambers had been damaged, that the structures of funerary enclosures had been undermined, that the pyramids had collapsed? (18) all that existed had been annihilated. His Majesty then ordered the repair of the chapels which had fallen in ruins in all the country, restoration of the (19) monuments of the gods, the re-erection of their precincts, the replacement of the sacred objects in the room of appearances, the re-closing of the secret place, the re-introduction (20) into their naoi of the statues which were lying on the ground, the re-erection of the fire altars, the replacement of the offering tables back on their feet, to assure them the provision of offerings, (21) the augmentation of the revenues of the personnel, the restoration of the country to its former state. They carried out everything, as the king had ordered it.


Blogger Dr. Joseph Ray Cathey said...

I think that all profs should have graders that are computer literate with graphic design.

Mon Aug 21, 09:10:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

OK, I have an honest question for those who know Egyptian (which, alas, I've not studied myself). Can line 12, as Jacobovici claims, be correctly rendered: "How much greater is this the impressive manifestation of the great god, than the plans of the gods!" Line 14 seems to speak of the power of one special deity being manifested...

Mon Aug 21, 03:24:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

As I was writing this post, Ron Hendel of the University of Calif. published this comment:
"The only one of [this movie's] claims that is worth taking seriously—albeit in modified form—is the idea that the Egyptian expulsion of the West Semitic Hyksos has something to do with the Biblical memory of the Exodus and of Joseph. We know that the rule and expulsion of the Hyksos were remembered for centuries in Egypt, where these memories were combined with other traditions. But even if there is a connection with the Biblical account of the Exodus, the Hyksos events have become mingled with many other events and memories concerning Egyptian rule over Canaan during the subsequent period, and the many West Semites that suffered or were taken into slavery during the Egyptian Empire (ca. 1500-1200 B.C.E.). The emergence of Israel occurred at the end of this period, not at the beginning, so the Hyksos expulsion does not connect directly to the Israelite Exodus. But perhaps it does indirectly, through memory, tradition, and other stories of suffering and redemption."

Sat Aug 26, 07:23:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Christopher Heard said...

S and C (or is it SLC?): I am not skilled in Egyptian myself, so I am dependent on other sources. Nevertheless, I consulted the only article on the Tempest Stele that I could find in the scholarly literature in Ancient Near Eastern/biblical studies (there may be more in Egyptological research). I give full bibliographic details here. The translation by James P. Allen in Journal of Near Eastern Studies 57 reads, "How much greater is this than the impressive manifestation of the great god, than the plans of the gods!" Jacobivici's quotation seems to leave out the first "than," which totally changes the tenor of the sentence. According to Allen in the JNES article mentioned, Ahmose is quoted as saying that the force of the storm surpassed the intentions of Amun and the other gods when they sent it in the first place. Importantly, an earlier line in the stela reads "[Then] the gods [made] the sky come in a storm of r[ain, with dark]ness in the western region and the sky beclouded ..." Ahmose's publicist clearly blames the storm on "the gods," plural. Also, elsewhere in the stela, their motive is cited: they wanted their "cult service." The Tempest Stela has to be carefully edited, quote-mined, and (mis)interpreted in order to yield Jacobivici's results.

Tue Aug 29, 10:44:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

UPDATE! Simcha Jacobivici has responded to Chris Heard's reviews in Chris' blog, Higgaion. Don't miss the interaction at:

Sun Sep 17, 02:01:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Additional Update: Tyler F. Williams, Taylor University College, has just posted a good summary of the work that Chris Heard has done so far at:

Sun Sep 17, 07:33:00 PM GMT-5  

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