Ancient History and Chronology
Podcast: Axe to the Root
Topics: History, Theology
Reconstructing Egyptian chronology, thus, leads us to see that secular historians have stretched ancient history beyond the historical evidence, inventing a gap of between 400 and 700 years at least. No wonder their history does not fit the Biblical narrative: they have made it up, from thin air.
“The Shadow of Christ in the Legal Revolutions in Greece and Rome“, Bojidar Marinov
Ages in Chaos, Immanuel Velikovsky
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Welcome to Episode 26 of Axe to the Root Podcast, part of the War Room Productions, I am Bo Marinov, and for the next 20 minutes we will be talking about ancient history. You know, Egypt, Sumer, Babylon, the Hittite Empire, Crete, Troy, and, not to forget, Israel. That ancient history that is, lamentably, so far away from us and so hidden from our view in many respects – although, we shouldn’t be surprised that it is so hidden given that we today discover important things that have happened just 50 years ago and yet are just as well-forgotten by most of us. Let alone things that happened 3,000 years ago. And yet, that history is so important to us today. And since it is so important to us today, it is so hotly contested between different gangs of historians; and of course, so hotly contested between the united gang of all academic historians and the Biblical record. Three quarters of the Bible is either history or prophecies about that specific period of time that is today below our time horizon. Therefore, the credibility and the reputation of the Bible as the Word of God is directly related to its truthful representation of that ancient history, of which we know so little – I mean, so little from sources outside the Bible. And most of those sources are just fragmented pieces with vague testimonies in languages that are long dead, and translators seldom agree on their true interpretation. If you are a Christian, this situation is just fine with you: that’s what you expect, after all, that God would preserve His own Word throughout His own history which He controls absolutely with His own hand, while He will make sure to destroy all the words of mere men – except where He is pleased to leave bits and pieces of them, some for support of His Word, some simply for entertainment, to laugh at the feeble presumption of men.
The deal is much tougher, of course, if you are an academic historian and your tenure and very survival in the academic world depends on how zealously vociferous you are against the Bible and its truthfulness. By the standards of the modern academic world, you are supposed to do everything you can to re-interpret the evidence of historical data to speak against the Bible’s account of ancient history. That isn’t an easy task, given that all you have outside the Bible are small bits and pieces, most of which have no relation to each other. To construct anything comparable to the Bible in consistency and believability, and yet opposed to the Bible, you have a gigantic task ahead of you. Imagine if you have small pieces from different artifacts: a ceramic amphora handle, a small piece of papirus, a metalornament, a piece of charcoal, and a stone ax, and you are asked to use these pieced to construct a marble vase to compete against another marble vase which has been preserved entire and has been in plain view of everyone for thousands of years. What can you do with such an impossible task? Well, the answer of the modern academy is to use all these different pieces to put together some form of a monster, and then make everyone’s tenure and reputation dependent on calling it a “marble vase.” Once they have a critical number of so-called “historians” who value tenure more than integrity and logic, they now have their monster called a “marble vase.”
That’s how we have today our textbooks of ancient history that have no mention of the Bible as the only remaining unbroken consistent record of ancient history. And that’s why modern interpretations of ancient history have no place for the Bible in them. And that’s why so often we as Christians get the following retort: “The Bible can’t be true because God didn’t give Moses the Law on the mountain. Moses just copied or compiled the Law following previous patterns, like the Code of Hammurabi, written 500 years prior. The heathen nations had their law codes centuries before the Exodus; they didn’t need the God of the Bible to know how to make laws and how to apply them.” Many theologians have adopted the same interpretation of ancient history – and no, I am not talking about liberal theologians. I am talking about supposedly conservative, and even Reformed theologians, like Meredith Kline of the Westminster Seminary West, who wrote a whole book defending the idea that the Law of God given to Moses was “patterned” after the ancient treaties in the Middle East.
In order to deal with this argument, and in order to restore the real Biblical view on these matters, we will have to delve into ancient history. We won’t be able to cover it all, but I will attempt to cover enough to prepare you for further studies, in case you decide they are important. I will only say that history is rather overrated among many Christians today – take this from someone who has wasted much of his life studying in excruciating detail at least two historical periods, pre-Classical and Classical Greece and Rome, and WWII. While some knowledge of history is important, keep in mind that God is not a peddler of antiques; His truth doesn’t depend on whether we have found the Ark on Mount Ararat, or whether we have dug out Jehu’s latrine. Some of it, though, may be beneficial for limited purposes, and therefore, we will look into it here.
In the modern academic version of the events, the Exodus – and therefore the giving of the Law – happened in the middle of the 13th century BC, during the 19th Egyptian dynasty, which had two rulers known to us from Egyptian sources by the name Ramesses. Ramesses I, the founder of the dynasty who ruled for only two years, and then his grandson, Ramesses II, or the Great, a powerful ruler who ruled for 66 years and fought many wars of conquest on all the borders of his kingdom, mainly in Asia. The connection is made with the name of one of the storage cities in Exodus 1:11, Raamses. Since Ramesses II was a powerful king, and since there are no records of any significant catastrophe – natural disaster or military defeat – during his reign, the conclusion of the historians is that the Exodus must not have been as described in the Bible, and was rather a small local event, exaggerated in later Hebrew folk tales.
There is a problem with placing the Exodus in the 13th century, though, and that problem is in the Bible. 1 Kings 6:1 specifically declares the date of the Exodus to be 480 years before Solomon began building the Temple. There is no disagreement among scholars as to the dates of Solomon’s reign: It lasted for 40 years, from 970 to 930 BC. Since Solomon already had the material for the Temple from his father David, the construction must have started almost immediately after he became a king, a little after 970 BC. Roll back 480 years, and we have the Biblical date for the Exodus at about 1450 BC, or about 2 centuries before the date given by modern historians. In his Annals of the World, Bishop James Ussher dates the Exodus in 1491 BC, and the beginning of the Temple in 1012 BC, that is, 40 years earlier than the modern agreed dates for Solomon’s reign. Either 1450 or 1490 BC are a date that is a little too early for modern historians, however. None of them is willing to accept that the Bible is a reliable testimony when it says that the Exodus happened 480 years before Solomon.
Why? What is the problem with placing the Exodus in the 15th century BC?
For secular historians, the problem is that according to the academia-accepted chronology of Egypt, the 15th century is the century of an even more powerful dynasty, the 18th dynasty. And the pharaoh who ruled over most of the 15th century was Thutmose III, son and co-ruler with his mother, the most powerful Queen of Egypt, Hatshepsut. This dynasty saw no natural disasters nor military defeats either, and, in addition to it, its reign extended deep into Asia: Under Thutmose III, Egypt controlled not only Canaan but also Syria, and the Egyptian army even crossed the Euphrates River twice in its campaigns. Obviously, it wouldn’t make sense for Israel to cross the Red Sea to go to Canaan, for Canaan was an Egyptian territory throughout the 15th century BC; and the Pentateuch doesn’t record any Egyptian presence in Canaan in the Exodus or post-Exodus period. So, it can’t be the 15th century.
The difficulties this date poses for us, Christians, should be obvious, then. First, we have the textual problem: The 13th century date disproves the specific number in 1 Kings 6:1: 480 years between the Exodus and the Temple. Second, we have the apologetical problem: Moses just parroted laws that have been in existence for hundreds of years, without any reference to the God of the Bible. Third, the problem with the historical narrative: There is simply not enough time for all the events described between Exodus 1 and 1 Kings 6 to have really happened – specifically the books of Joshua and Judges. So, how do we answer these arguments?
The answer has been given by two scholars, the Seventh-Day Adventist Donovan Courville and the secular Jew Immanuel Velikovsky. Both pointed to the underlying problem among all historians: all modern histories and chronologies of ancient history rotate around the accepted Egyptian chronology. The problem is, Egyptian chronology, as it is accepted today, and as it dominates all textbooks of ancient history, is unreliable. In fact, it can not be possibly true, even if it is taken on its own, without comparing it to the Bible or to anything else. The measuring rod secular historians use about dates and times in ancient history is crooked. It shows nothing of value. It is arbitrary. It depends on the personal whim of the historian to decide how to use it. But also, in general, it is false.
Believe it or not, just as with the supposed chronology of evolution, modern Egyptian chronology comes not from any scientific discoveries or measurements but from fragments from the work Aegyptiaca of a writer who lived in the 2nd or 3rd century BC – long after all the events in Egyptian history were forgotten – by the name Manetho. Manetho was an Egyptian priest of the old dying religion – the same religion of the Egyptian magicians, whose staffs were consumed by the staff of Moses. In his time, his old religion of the sun-god Ra faced severe competition on several fronts. The Hellenization of the Middle East after the conquests of Alexander the Great made the Greek gods appear much more attractive – pagans have always judged the power of their gods by the military successes of their worshipers. Egypt was under the Greek dynasty of the Ptolemies, and Manetho himself wrote in Greek. Zoroastrianism was making its inroads from Persia. Different mystery cults were capturing the minds of many of the intelligentsia. And last, but not least, the religion of the Hebrews with its one and jealous Creator God was spreading everywhere: Jews in Alexandria accounted for more than a quarter of the population of the city; and through birthrates and proselytizing, were gaining strength everywhere in the Mediterranean.
Manetho’s solution to preserving the appeal of his religion was to prove it was the most ancient of all religions by showing that Egypt was the most ancient of all cultures – thus, he set out to compile a list of all rulers of Egypt back to the very beginning. He took all the existing historical records of rulers of Egypt at the time, and made a list of 26 dynasties, stretching more than 3,000 years back from his own time. He made those dynasties all follow one after another, and made every ruler follow the previous ruler, adding up their years to come to a total number of years for the history of Egypt. Thus was Egyptian chronology born, more than 3 centuries after the death of the last truly Egyptian Pharaoh. And this is the chronology that became the foundation for modern Egyptian chronology that historians oppose to the Bible.
There is a problem with it, however. In fact, several problems. The first is that the ancient Egyptians didn’t have the same view of time and therefore the same counting of time as we have today. They didn’t count years from a starting date. They didn’t see succession of rulers in the same way as we do. They could also have several rulers ruling at the same time – for example, Thutmose II ruled as co-regent with his mother, Hatshepsut. They mentioned there was an overlap but they never said how many years of overlap there were. Thus, the first year of Thutmose III was not the last year of his mother’s rule. This happened many times in Egypt’s history.
Second, in several periods of Egypt’s history, two or more dynasties ruled at the same time from different locations; the country was divided politically. Manetho ordered all the dynasties one after another. The truth is, several of them ruled at the same time.
Third, some of the dynasties were dynasties not of political kings but of priests of Ra, and ruled after the final conquest of Egypt by the Persian Empire in 525 BC. Thus, while Manetho tried to fit them into the period before 525, they really belong to a much later date.
Fourth, the rulers of Egypt had not one but several names. It was not unusual for a ruler to use one name to refer to himself on the inscriptions of stone in Egypt, and another name in his foreign policy. And this would often be the case with a whole dynasty. Eventually, in Manetho’s list, several dynasties were simply written down twice, once under their internal names, and then under the names they were known by the surrounding nations.
These and other problems with Manetho’s list, when added up, would produce a much shorter history of Egypt. Obviously, if rules overlap, this will shorten the time period. If dynasties rule at the same time, this will also shorten the time period. The same will happen if priestly, non-political dynasties are introduced and when dynasties are repeated.
And this completely unreliable chronology was taken for granted by the modern academia, despite its obvious flaws.
Courville and Velikovsky pointed to these flaws, and set out to produce a revised chronology of Egypt. They were ostracized by the academic community, of course, in the same way creationists are ostracized today, despite their superior arguments – or because of their superior arguments. When they were done, the chronology of Egypt looked like this: The beginning of Egypt was rolled forward by about 1,200 years, to about the time of the patriarchs. When Abraham was in Egypt, he was dealing with the rulers of Old Kingdom which was still a very crude and primitive form of state, still having some remembrance of the true God. The period of Israel in Egypt was a period of three dynasties ruling at the same time, not of one centralized monarchy. (One of the dynasties may have been priestly, not political.) Egypt had Upper and Lower Egypt at the time, and since Israel was in the Delta, the Pharaoh of the Exodus was a ruler of Lower Egypt.
The Exodus happened in the 16th or the 15th century BC, and it was a disaster for Egypt. Interestingly enough, we have an extra-Biblical confirmation for such disaster: the so-called Ipuwer Papirus, which describes the same plagues on Egypt as those in the Exodus. Historians have ignored it, because it pre-dates the Hyksos invasion: a long period of foreign occupation of Egypt by Semitic peoples, and in their version, the Exodus was much later. But in the revised chronology, the Hyksos invasion followed the Exodus, and the Hyksos took over Egypt without a fight. Remember, the army and the Pharaoh were on the bottom of the Red Sea. Are these Hyksos invaders mentioned in the Bible? Of course. The Hyksos of the Egyptian inscriptions were the Amalekites who met Israel immediately after they left Egypt, in Exodus 17, before Israel came to Sinai. We know Amalek became the first of the nations, but then it met destruction, because that’s what Balaam prophesied in Numbers 24. Indeed, the first, because for a while they ruled over Egypt, and remained there until Saul defeated their last stronghold on the eastern border of Egypt (1 Sam. 15:7). The Amalekites were the Hyksos.
This led both Courville and Velikovsky to revise another portion of secular chronology: The reign of Solomon. Under the revised chronology, the reign of Solomon coincided with the reign of that powerful dynasty we talked about, that of the Thutmoses (father and son) and their daughter and sister, Hatshepsut. Courville came to the conclusion that the father, Thutmose II, was Solomon’s father-in-law. Velikovsky, comparing Egyptian inscriptions with the Biblical record, came to an even more scandalous conclusion, that the Queen of Sheba – also the Queen of the South, according to Jesus – was in fact the Queen of Egypt, Hatshepsut. Velikovsky ‘s claims are not so incredible, though; he produces a wealth of evidence from Egyptian inscriptions and papyri about a trip Hatshepsut made north to a Semitic nation where she learned the wisdom of the gods. In the same way, comparing Egyptian inscriptions with the Biblical texts, and also with other extra-Biblical sources, like Herodotus and Josephus, Velikovsky came to the conclusion that Rameses II, the mighty ruler of the 19th Dynasty, is in fact the Pharaoh Necho who fought against King Josiah and mortally wounded him. Etc., etc.
Reconstructing Egyptian chronology, thus, leads us to see that secular historians have stretched ancient history beyond the historical evidence, inventing a gap of between 400 and 700 years at least. No wonder their history do not fit the Biblical narrative: they have made it up, from thin air. This gap has affected the history of other places as well. For example, anyone who knows the history of Rome knows about the gap of 400 years between the fall of Troy (in 1143 BC, supposedly) and the establishment of Rome in 753 BC. Romans considered themselves direct descendants of Trojans, and such gap would be inexplicable if they were. But the fall of Troy was dated relatively to the established Egyptian chronology, while the founding of Rome is known from Roman sources. Under the reconstructed chronology, the two get closer to each other: Troy fell in the 9th century, a generation or two before the founding of Rome.
And what about the Code of Hammurabi? Was it earlier than the Law of Moses? Not at all. The Code of Hammurabi, under the reconstructed chronology, would fall in the late 15th century, a generation or two after Moses. Moses didn’t copy from pagan sources, far from it. To the contrary, Moses was the first lawgiver, as Eusebius declares in his history, and all the other nations learned law from Moses. The world had no law, nor any legal structure, nor any concept of courts and judges and justice, before Moses came down from the mountain with the two tables in his hands. In Egypt of Joseph, no laws nor legal structure were mentioned. A man could be thrown in jail at the whim of a ruler. He could be released from jail at the whim of a ruler. He could be executed at the whim of a ruler, or he could be exalted at the whim of a ruler. No formal code of laws restrained a ruler from doing anything he wanted, to anyone. No system of laws was there to regulate personal or institutional relations. There were no courts, and no judges anywhere. If the Hebrews wanted to settle in Egypt, they had to ask Pharaoh for permission. If they wanted to pass through Edom, they had to ask the king for permission. In the time of Abraham, the king could come and take Sarah because he liked her. There was no higher law to which Sarah or Abraham could refer to protect her.
And it is here where the most important part of our history lesson comes. All the details of ancient history, all the Egypt’s dynasties, all the battles and the expeditions and the city-states and the religions of the ancient world are without much importance to a covenantal study of history. What is more important for us to know is this:
The world after the flood quickly degenerated into barbarism, darkness, and tyranny. Nimrod was the first human tyrant after the Flood, but he was not the only one. Until Mount Sinai, the concept of formal transcendent law was unknown to the world. There were societies, but there were no civilizations in the modern sense of the word; because there was no concept of Law at all. The light to the world came on that Mountain, where God first revealed His Law. And it was then copied – or at least imperfectly imitated, by other nations.
Contrary to modern historians, the emergence of civilizations didn’t happen until after the 10thcentury. More specifically, until after the reign of Solomon. The light that Moses brought down from Sinai became a beacon for the world. 1 Kings 10:23-24 speaks of Solomon that he “became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. All the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart.” All the earth. It is of that time that we have civilized activity and formal laws appearing in places not only in the Middle East, but as far as China or the Americas. In the final account, what happened on Mount Sinai and in the Exodus was a global event, which through Solomon created civilization in the world. But of this we will speak in more detail in another episode.
This week I will assign for reading a book and an article. The book is Immanuel Velikovsky’s Ages in Chaos. You can, of course, read all of his books, but this book is central, together with another one of his books, Ramses II and His Time. The article I will assign is “The Shadow of Christ in the Legal Revolutions in Greece and Rome,” by Bojidar Marinov. You can find it on my website, Christendom Restored. It is time for us all to shake off the pagan understanding of history and adopt a Biblical one.
And meanwhile, don’t forget my permanent appeal for help for my mission field. Eastern Europe needs a supply of books, translated and published in the local languages. We have done a lot in Bulgaria, and more is needed. Meanwhile, there are translation efforts underway in other places in Eastern Europe as well, and I will share with you about them in future episodes. For now, please, visit BulgarianReformation. Com, subscribe to the newsletter, and donate.