Catastrophe, Exodus and Chronology

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Outline of Egyptian ancient history

All dates are approximate and for orientation only. The division into kingdoms and periods is modern. The division into dynasties is from Manetho (3rd century BC).

1) Early Dynastic period dynasties 1 and 2 3100-2800

2) Old Kingdom dynasties 3 to 6 2800-2200

3) First Intermediate Period dynasties 7 to 10 2200-2050

4) Middle Kingdom dynasties 11 to 13 2050-1700

5) Second Intermediate Period dynasties 14 to 17 1700-1550

6) New Kingdom dynasties 18 to 20 1550-1100

7) Second Intermediate Period dynasties 21 to 25 1100-664

8) Late Kingdom dynasties 26 to 31 664 to 332

Outline of Jewish history Exodus to Exile

(Accepted Biblical chronology, early dates approximate)

1450 Exodus from Egypt, followed 1400 by conquest of Canaan

1030-930 United Monarchy - kings Saul, David and Solomon

930-721 Divided Monarchy - Judea and Israel separate kingdoms

721 Israel conquered by the Assyrians

721-586 Kingdom of Judah

586 Jerusalem conquered by the Babylonians. Exile in Babylon.

Chronological Revisionism

The Egyptian chronology is regarded as fixed and immutable, with only a little leeway for precise dating. But there have long been a small number of historians who have perceived problems with the accepted scheme, most notably Immanuel Velikovsky, David Rohl and Peter James. Although their solutions differ considerably, they broadly agree on where the problems lie.

The Dark Age of Greece

Until the late 19th century it was accepted that the earliest phase of Greek history, the Mykenean, immediately preceded the classical Hellenic age. Then, in the excavation of Tel-el-Amarna, the ancient Akhetaten, the capital city of the heretic 18th dynasty pharaoh Akhnaton, Mykenean pottery of types IIIA and IIIB was found. Because Akhetaton was only occupied for around twenty years, the pottery could be securely dated - and it was 500 years earlier than previously accepted, opening a huge gap between the phases of Greek history. Greek scholars were outraged. There was nothing in either the archaeology or the written documents to suggest such a thing. Nevertheless, the Egyptologists prevailed, and the Mykenean chronology was duly displaced by the required amount. But the problems noted at the time have not gone away.

First of these is that the two cultures are too similar for there to have been a 500 year interregnum between the two. The second is the "Homeric problem". Homer, writing after the dark age, displays a detailed knowledge of the world that came before it. This is especially surprising given problem number three. The Greeks are supposed to have lost the art of writing for the whole period, yet within a few decades of rediscovering it were producing some of their greatest literary works. This is odd, to say the least.

In the words of the Cambridge Ancient History

The dating of the stages of occupation in the Palestinian towns of the Late Bronze Age is almost entirely dependent on pottery. Datble objects such as royal scarabs are regrettably unreliable. Often their find spot is uncertain. Even when the evidence on this is reasonably precise, it is often clear it is often clear that either the scarab was an heirloom, or was a later copy...

Or to put it more honestly, datable Egyptian objects are consistently found in later strata than expected (often much later). There is no evidence that these artefacts were heirlooms or copies, other than that they were found in the wrong strata, and these are purely ad hoc explanations. Nor are they credible - there is no reason why the Canaanites would have done this. Scarabs were the symbols of the Egyptian ruling power, and marked the authority of the Pharaohs.

The Problem

It can easily be seen that on the basis of these two chronologies, the Exodus falls in the New Kingdom period. As many historians have pointed out, this causes an immediate problem, for this period represents the peak of Egyptian power under pharaohs like Tuthmoses III, Amenhotep III and Rameses II, among others. There is nothing in the archaeological record to show there was any conquest of Canaan at this time. Neither is there anything in the Bible to suggest an Egyptian presence there, although they were in almost permanent control of the region throughout the New Kingdom, with only a few short breaks.

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