Coptic church bombing in Egypt: Mubarak must prosecute
Christian Science Monitor, Editorial Board, Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Strong condemnation of the deadly New Year's bombing at a Christian church in Egypt has come from where it counts most: religious and political leaders of this predominantly Muslim country. Extreme Islamists – possibly linked to Al Qaeda – are likely behind the attack that killed 21. So it's encouraging that in Cairo, the grand sheikh of Islam's preeminent theological institute has denounced the bombing as a "heinous crime." Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak got on national television and promised to bring the perpetrators to justice. But will he? The Egyptian government prefers to handle sporadic violence against the country's Christian minority – called Copts – through a "reconciliation" process between perpetrators and victims. Reconciliation has some value, but no one does time for the crimes against Egypt's Copts, such as murder or destruction of property. In its 2010 annual report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom rightly condemns such impunity: "The absence of accountability breeds lawlessness, which encourages individuals to attack, and even kill, others who dissent from or fail to embrace their own religious views, including members of minority religious communities." With no firm pushback from the state, religiously motivated attacks on Copts are on the rise in Egypt. Some describe the violence of recent years more like a purge.
Indeed, Christians and other religious minorities – as well as nonconforming Muslims – are under increasing attack in the Middle East and North Africa, regions which a 2009 Pew study found to have the most government restrictions on religious practice anywhere in the world .In Iraq, where Christian and other religious minority populations have dwindled under threats and hardship, the unsteady government lacks the capacity to ensure proper security. In Iran, the government itself is the persecutor. In a country such as Pakistan, antiblasphemy laws feed religious intolerance – to the point of the Jan. 4 assassination of the governor of Punjab Province, reportedly because he spoke out against blasphemy laws.In recent years, political and religious leaders from the West and Muslim worlds have come together to further religious tolerance. That effort is important because what leaders say influences the cultural atmosphere. Their rhetoric can, for instance, bring public pressure to bear against a threatened Quran-burning (as in the United States last year).But what leaders do is just as important, which is why it's imperative that Mr. Mubarak follow through on his promise to "track down" and "capture" the perpetrators.As the US religious freedom commission points out, impunity "often leads to endless cycles of sectarian violence." The world is seeing that now, not just in Egypt but in countries such as Nigeria and Sudan. Holding religious attackers to account can help break that cycle.
I heard Bill O'Reilly recently say that Americans are not "ideological." However, I would expect a politician in Washington to have an ideology. If he doesn't have motivating beliefs-then why would he go to Washington to begin with? The reason that many Americans are not ideological is because many people are too lazy to think through the issues for themselves.
NEW BOOK: THE PROMISE OF JONADAB
My next book will probably be "The Secret of Jabez." It is finished-I am just proof reading it. It is about the clan of the Rechabites. Recabites were Kenites-an Arabic tribe that worshiped Yahweh (or "Jehovah") before the Israelites did. Well, to my surprise a new book about Jonadab, a prominent Rechabite, has recently come out. Now, I don't agree with all the conclusions the authors have made about Jonadab-however, it is a good devotional book. It deals with the question-what are godly people to do in a period of social, moral and cultural decline? Is it possible to create a legacy and pass down faith in God and high moral values to our descendants? The book also mentions Coptic Christians and St. Thomas in India.
Long Sustained Persecution can lead to the disappearance of Christianity
The Church Father Tertullian was a brilliant thinker. One of his comments was that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." This means that the more Christians were persecuted the more Christianity seemed to grow. This may have been true in the Roman era. But lets look at the Eastern Churches. Nubia used to be a Christian region in Africa. It is now largely devoid of Christianity today. Lets look at Central Asia. There used to be churches all across the Silk Road. Now we only find ruins and 1800 year old Aramaic tombstones left behind by the Christians. Lets look at Socotra. We have literary references to churches having been there. Some ruins and inscriptions have been found. Now, let's go to Carthage-where Tertullian came from. North Africa-one of the important early centers of Christianity. There are no churches there (except in Egypt-which, in reality is a region to itself). What happened? The Muslim armies arrived and began persecution that was unrelenting and continued for centuries. Eventually, the church simply disappeared and most people can't even imagine that these regions used to be Christian. Let's look at Turkey. Many Armenians and Assyrian Christians lived in Turkey. Turkey put two million Christians to death during the twentieth century. It looks like Southern Sudan will have a happier ending and we should rejoice for our African brethren.
The Houston Chronicle reports on the Killing of Coptic Christians
On January 7, 2011, the Houston Chronicle in it's religion (or "Belief") section did a report on the persecution of Christians in Egypt. The article did mention that Copts suffer persecution and discrimination. I am happy to see the article. However, I had one problem with it. It never said exactly who it was that was doing the persecuting. The adjectives Muslim or Islamic were not used to describe the persecutors. Al-Qaida was mentioned but it wasn't described as an Islamic organization. LTC Allen West accurately stated that until we deal with the reality that this is an Islamic problem-we are not going to make any progress in the war on ISLAMIC terror.
Commentator: New Years Attack "unusual"
I have visited Egypt there times. I went to Egypt to visit its Christian community. Ever since I went I have been paying attention to news regarding its Christian community. After the New Years Day Coptic Massacre in which 21 Copts were killed and 100 were wounded when a Muslim detonated a car bomb into a church as the Christians were having a New Years Day prayer service. I read an article by a man named "George Freidman." He stated that such massacres were unusual in Egypt. Well, maybe they are unusual in the alternate reality that Mr. Friedman lives in, but for the Coptic people, they are a common occurrence. I listed massacres against Copts in the last newsletter. 1991, 2000, 2005, 2011 major massacres occurred.
Me and the Massacres
I have lived in Syria, Iraq and Egypt with Assyrian and Coptic Christians. I take these killings personally. For me, the 31 October 2010-and the 1 January 2011 Massacres are the last straw. I have had enough of this radicalism. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
During the Middle Ages, the "Silk Road" ran through Afghanistan. Commerce and trade thrived in this region. It was also multi-religious and multi-cultural. There were Buddhists, Nestorian Christians and Manicheans. The Assyrian Christians founded universities and seminaries in Afghanistan and all across the Silk Road. It was a region of learning and tolerance. Then the armies of Islam arrived. Now, Afghanistan is far behind where they were during the Middle Ages. People are afraid to criticize Islam because they fear what will happen to them if they do. Looking at Afghanistan, I see what I fear if we fail to speak out. The same thing that has happened in Afghanistan can happen-and indeed is happening-in a global scale. All the science, progress and technological achievements-lost and have become a forgotten memory. Looking at what Afghanistan is today, we can't imagine that it was ever advanced. Evidence of its glorious past, such as the Buddhas, have been destroyed.
MY NEW BOOKS
I want to promote my new books:
- Christ the Man: This book is about the beginning of Christ's ministry and his cleansing of the Temple.
- The Hammer of God: This book is able Maccabees and the Battle for religious freedom
- The Language of Jesus: Introducing Aramaic I wanted to have a short, inexpensive book that introduces Aramaic and the Assyrians
- Saint Thaddeus and the King of the Assyrians This book is able the origin and identity of Assyrian Christians.
CONTACT STEPHEN: www.aramaicherald.blogspot.com, www.youtube.com/aramaic12.
PO Box 882, Shepherd TX 77371
I am trying to get a position as a professor at a Christian university and get into a doctoral program. I have to do a sample paper in order to get into the doctoral program. So, I decided to do a new paper entitled "The Quest for the Historical Moses." This is a version of that paper. If you would like to read the entire paper, check out my blog (see above).
The Quest for the Historical Moses
Recently, certain Bible scholars have come to the conclusion that there never was a Moses. They believe that Moses is a mythological figure who never existed in history. They have concluded that there never was a Moses or an Exodus from Egypt and that the Israelites were simply Canaanites. This is a challenge to the very roots of the reliability of the Holy Bible. It is imperative for those who believe in the truthfulness of Scripture to examine the historical, archeological, and textual evidence for the historicity of Moses and the Exodus.
One of the principles differences between the "Quest for the Historical Jesus" and such a quest for a historical Moses is the time frame that we have to work with. Historically, we know that Christ's life and public ministry occurred sometime between 26 A.D.-36 A.D. with most Bible Scholars believing that his work occurred from 29-33 A.D. But with Moses we have conservative Bible scholars working over a much longer time period. Certain conservatives believe that the Exodus occurred around 1440 B.C. while others state that it occurred in the reign of Ramesses II (called "Ramesses the Great") sometime in the 1200s.
Here we are going to examine the evidence for the historical truth of the Exodus account. Dealing with methodology, in attempting to discover the historical facts regarding the exodus we should avoid rabbinic lore. According to Rabbinical legend, Pharaoh commanded that the Hebrew male children should be put to death because Egyptian astrologers saw an "evil star" that foretold the birth of a deliverer of the Hebrews. However, the Bible is very clear that Pharaoh's intent was simply population control. The text says nothing about Pharaoh trying to kill the deliverer as a child. Also, sometimes the Bible was read too literally by the rabbis. Reading literally, first Pharaoh commands the Hebrews to kill their firstborn then he commands "all his people" to kill their first born. The rabbis interpreted this as meaning that first the killings were directed at the Hebrews and then Pharaoh commanded all his people, Egyptian and Hebrew, to put to death new born male children. This is not a common sense reading of the Bible. Obviously, the command was directed solely to the Hebrews. Another rabbinical legend has Moses wandering the earth for nearly forty years and then he comes and settles with Jethro and marries Zipporah when he is approaching eighty. It is true that the Torah doesn't state that Moses arrived in Midian when he was forty years old. (Stephen does in his sermon in Acts.) Also, when Moses leaves Jethro to return to Egypt, Gershom is a small child. The reason why the rabbis developed this myth is that reading the text, it seems that Moses was not in Midian for forty years. If he had been Gershom would have been an adult with children of his own. (Perhaps we should entertain the possibility that these "forty years" represent rough estimates or symbolic numbers.) Rabbinical lore is very influential. Its influence can be seen in many movies and novels about the exodus. We should look at rabbinical legend with extreme caution. Most of it contains absurd stories. Rather that reading rabbinical legend we need to examine historical and archeological evidences. The two most important archeological evidences are the Soleb inscription and the "Israel Stele of Merenptah." The Soleb inscription mentions Pharaoh having defeated the people of "Yahweh." Some believe this is a reference to the Israelites having left Egypt and then living in the desert region outside of Egypt. Supporters of the "Kenite Hypothesis" believe that the "people of Yahweh" are not Israelites but are rather Kenites, an Arabian tribe that worshiped Yahweh earlier than and independently of the Israelites. (The name Yahweh may not have been pronounced as "Yahweh." It may have been more like "Yahu." Yahweh has become the standard scholarly pronunciation or construct and is used although it may not be the proper pronunciation.) This inscription is still important regardless. If the Kenite hypothesis is true, the Israelites worshiped God by the name "El-Shaddai" and Moses settled among Yahweh worshiping Kenites, such as Jethro. Yahweh appeared to Moses and revealed to him that He was the same God worshiped by the Israelites by the name "El-Shaddai." The "Merenptah Stele" is the only Egyptian document that mentions Israel. It seems to describe Israel as being a people living in Canaan. So, this is viewed as a cut of date for the Exodus. This means that the Exodus (and maybe Conquest) must have occurred by this date. However, it is possible that there were some Israelite tribes in Canaan before the Exodus. In Chronicles it describes Ephraim as settling in Canaan after his father died. This seems to be a story about Ephraim the son of Joseph and not a personification of the tribes as we see of Judah and Simeon in Judges chapter one.
In our methodology we must also avoid the error of superficiality. This is seen in the book "Moses and the Gods of Egypt." The Bible does say that God attacked the gods of Egypt. This can be seen in the plagues. Hapi was the Nile god and Yahweh defeated Hapi by changing the Nile to blood. Heket, a goddess of magic, appeared as a woman with a head of a frog. The plague of frogs was a defeat of Heket. Hathor was a cattle goddess and was defeated in the plague upon the cattle. Ra was the sun god and was defeated in the plague of darkness. I do believe that there is some truth in this analysis, but there are so many ancient Egyptian gods-the Egyptians had a god for just about anything! So, what we need to do is have a deeper knowledge of Egyptian religion. There was never one unified Egyptian religion. For example, there were different creator gods. Some Egyptians believed that the Creator was Atum. Atum was self-existent. Other Egyptians believed that Ptah was the Creator. Ptah created the universe by speaking it into existence. In southern Egypt Khnum was the creator god. He created man out of the dust of the earth. So we see that certain ideas that the Ancient Egyptians had about God are similar to our own and to ideas found in the Holy Bible. Different regions in Egypt had different religions and they were never really unified. The closest religion in Egypt that was the one religion of Egypt was the theological system that was the foundation of the Pharaoh. This is the Isis-Osiris-Horus mythology. The reason why this mythology was found throughout Egypt was because it was used to justify the rule of the pharaoh. The pharaoh was considered a god on earth. He was an earthly manifestation of Horus and represents the gods. Pharaoh was in a sense a priest. (Although Egyptian priests carried out his priestly functions, they did it on his behalf.) Pharaoh was responsible for maintaining "ma'at," Ma'at means order, truth and justice. Pharaoh is a false god who in the Bible is doing battle with Yahweh, the real god.
It is also important to avoid sensational theories. Our research needs to be scholarly and mainstream. Sensational theories would include ideas that Moses was Ankhnaten or that Mount Sinai is in Saudi Arabia. Another extreme theory is David Rohl's "New Chronology" in which the chronology of the Egyptian pharaohs is adjusted by several centuries. Very few Egyptologists are going to take such theories seriously. Our desire is to advance knowledge. If we start with false assumptions we aren't going to get anywhere.
I want to give an example of how to do what I would consider proper research of the Egyptian background of the Exodus. The scholar needs to examine and to be familiar with ancient Egyptian culture. To the ancient Egyptians, Moses seems to be a magician. We actually conceive of him as having the appearance of a wizard like Gandalf in the Hobbit stories. Wizards have a magic wand and Moses has a staff through which he works his wonders.(In the "Lord of the Rings" stories, the wizards use magic staves.) Moses is opposed by Pharaoh's magicians. So, who were Pharaoh's magicians and how did the Ancient Egyptians believe magic to work? Not the way most people would think. The ancient Egyptians believed that writing was a form of magic and that sculptures and paintings were also magical. The Pharaoh Ankhnaten attempted to establish monotheism in Egypt. Pharaoh's believed that they lived through statues made in their image. To destroy Ankhenaten's soul, the Egyptians would smash his images and his hieroglyphic inscriptions. We have to be cautious about our sources on ancient Egyptian religious beliefs and beliefs about magic. I am interested in how the ancient Egyptians conceived of magic and not how some modern neo-Pagan wants to adopt and adapt it. (One ancient Egyptian magical trick was to write upon a scroll and then dissolve it into water. This technique is actually found in the biblical test of an adulteress.) The ancient Egyptians thought of "magic" in different ways than we do. The gods such as Isis were wielders of magic. Magic was part of the structure of the universe. Names, and "true names" had magical powers. Isis gained supreme magical power by learning the true name of the god Ra.
The Liberal News Media and Southern Sudan
I have included an article from about ten years ago in which the Houston Chronicle is arguing that the starving Sudanese should not be given food until they surrender to their Islamic oppressors. Around the same time the United States was dropping food into the Balkans to the Al-Qaida allied insurgents there-who weren't actually starving. And now, despite the efforts of the Liberals-the Christians of Southern Sudan have won their victory. If it wasn't for the 9-11 attacks, the United States government would probably still be supporting Al Qaida backed insurgencies as we did in Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya. (The American government was also backing the Islamic government in Algeria. Why? Petro-dollars. Saudi Arabian wealth at work behind the scenes – see the book "The Arab Lobby." ) The Liberal "New York Times" slogan is "all the news that is fit to print." I don't think advocating starving Christians to death is fit to print. How dare they? How could someone be so inhumane to advocate such a strategy? It is so shocking and offensive. How could someone give such a repulsive idea credence and then advocate it in a news article? Who are these monsters? I kept the article so I could show people. Look, the radical left-wing Houston Chronicle printed an article saying we should starve Christians so they would surrender to radical Muslims. The Houston Chronicle is reprehensible.
Sudan: Free at Last!
The Christian people of Southern Sudan are voting for independence from the Islamic Republic of Sudan. Sudan is a very poor country. It has only about 15 miles of paved roads. It has rich deposits of oil. The Muslims would exploit the resources of southern Sudan and use those resources for the north-leaving the south undeveloped. About 2 million Christians in Southern Sudan have been killed by the northern Islamic Sudanese.
2,000-year-old ritual cup found in Old City of Jerusalem
The 10 lines of Aramaic or Hebrew script on the artifact is 'unprecedented,' an archaeologist says. Researchers are not yet able to decipher it.
August 01, 2009|Thomas H. Maugh II
U.S. archaeologists have found an extremely rare 2,000-year-old limestone cup inscribed with 10 lines of Aramaic or Hebrew script near the Zion Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Such ritual cups are common, especially in areas that were inhabited by priests, but usually they are unmarked or bear only a single line of text, such as a name, said archaeologist Shimon Gibson of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who led the dig along with James Tabor of the same school. "To have 10 lines of text is unprecedented," he said in announcing the find Wednesday. Although the script itself is not eroded or otherwise degraded, he said, researchers are not yet able to decipher it because the text is in an informal cursive script and is apparently deliberately cryptic. They know it contains the Hebrew word for God, YHWH or Yahweh, indicating it was probably important to the priests who used it in rituals. Gibson expected it to take two to six months to understand its meaning. The team has been digging in the Gan Sobev Homot Yerushalayim national park since June 14. The site, overlooking the Kidron and Hinnom valleys and the Mount of Olives, had not been excavated since the 1970s, when Israeli archaeologist Magen Broshi found a monumental Arabic inscription from the 13th century.The new dig has produced a sequence of building remains dating from the founding of the Temple -- the center of ancient Judaism -- by King Solomon in 970 BC through the Early Islamic Period, which ended with the destruction of the Old City by Crusaders in AD 1099.From the Second Temple Period, from 573 BC to AD 70, a housing complex with a mikvah or purification pool with a remarkably well-preserved vaulted ceiling was found. Inside the house were three bread ovens dating to AD 70, the year the Roman emperor Titus and his troops sacked the city.This area was believed to be a priestly habitat, confirmed by the discovery of 10 murex snail shells used to produce the ox-blood-red argaman dye used on priestly garments.On the level immediately above this, the researchers found the remains of a fire pit made by someone who stayed on the site shortly after its destruction.They also found a large arched building with a mosaic floor from the Byzantine Period (AD 135 to 638) that was preserved to a height of about 10 feet. They believe it is part of the building complex or a street associated with the nearby Church of St. Mary.
"Quest for Historical Moses Continued"
Evidence for the Hebrews Sojourn in Egypt
Actually, there is substantial evidence for "Hebrews" living in Egypt. We need to look into the Biblical account and realize that the Hebrews were not worshiping "Yahweh" in Egypt. According to the Bible, they were worshiping the "gods of Egypt." In the Bible, the Israelites describe their origins saying, "My ancestors were nomadic Syrians who migrated to Egypt and settled there." There is ample evidence for Syrians in Egypt. With the huge population of Semites in Egypt (Syrians, Hapiru and Asiatics), after a while the Egyptians began worshiping Semitic gods such as Astarte, Anath, Qudshu and Reshep. Baal was identified with Seth and the mythology of Baal was merged with that of Seth. When looking at the evidence for Semites in Egypt, we are looking at the evidence for the Israelites in Egypt, but we don't know it because we are starting off with false (and unbiblical) assumptions.
These Semites in Egypt were the inventors of the alphabet. Canaanite slaves who worked in Sinai mines for the Egyptians used Egyptian hieroglyphs to invent a new simplified alphabet which is the ancestor of many alphabets including the Greek, Hebrew, Arabic and Roman alphabets. Israel was part of this community of Semites that lived in Egypt.
The Beni Hassan paintings show Semites migrating into Egypt. Archeologists have also discovered letters describing Edomites coming into Egypt to settle. We also have a record that mentions the name Shiprah, one of the names of the Hebrew midwives who defy Pharaoh. (The Bible isn't clear if the midwives are Hebrew or Egyptian.)
Egyptian names: Moses, Aaron, Hur and Miriam are all Egyptian names.
The Bible states frequently, that the origins of Israel are to be traced to Egypt.
Reading the Bible Like the Ancients
I believe that we need to try to read the Bible like an ancient. The ancient Hebrews were aware of these stories of the gods of Egypt and the Syrian gods. To properly understand the story of the Exodus it is imperative to understand the historical and cultural background of when it occurred and when this story was told in earliest times. In fact, without an awareness of the stories of the Egyptian and Semitic gods important themes that the author of the sacred text wished to convey will be lost on the part of the reader. In addition to this, the author states that victory over the false gods of Egypt is won by Yahweh. The Bible says that Yahweh's mission in the plagues was to "execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt" (Exodus 12:11-13, Numbers 33:4). Also, in order to properly understand the religion of the Israelites during their sojourn in Egypt, it is necessary to understand ancient Egyptian religion since Joshua 24:14 makes it clear that the Israelites worshiped Egyptian gods while they were slaves in Egypt. In retellings of the Exodus, such as Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments, ancient Egyptian religion isn't properly explained or represented. The only thing that the viewer would learn from this movie about ancient Egyptian religion is that they worshiped idols. Even in some scholarly works by Evangelical Christians, ancient Egyptian religion is superficially treated.
The Alphabet Soup of the Documentary Hypothesis
According to "Archeology and the Bible," One must consider certain realistic details in the life of Moses, such as his marriage to Zipporah, daughter of the priest of Midian. The early date of the tradition is unquestionable; by the time of the Judges the Midianites had become bitter enemies of Israel. A later description of Moses would not have included the marriage of the great lawgiver to an enemy. Even more, how could any tradition allow Moses to be guided by a Midianite priest unless it were early and authentic?"
Using literary analysis, Bible scholars have identified various source documents that were combined and merged together to become the Torah. In order to understand the premise of the Documentary Hypothesis a good example is the Diatesseron. We have four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Around the year 150 an early Church Father named Tatian the Assyrian composed a harmony of the Four Gospels and entitled it "the Diatesseron" which means "a harmony of four." In the Aramaic church, the Diatesseron displaced the Four Gospels. Finally, a bishop named Rabulla decided to bring the Aramaic church into uniformity with practice of the rest of the Christian world. He was able to repress the Diatesseron and was so effectively that we no longer have copies of the Diatesseron in its two original languages, Greek and Aramaic. Imagine a scenario in which the Diatesseron became recognized as the official Gospel and the Four Gospels were lost. Perhaps, in such a scenario, Bible scholars could theoretically reconstruct the "separate gospels" by identifying vocabulary, style of writing, and concepts unique to each distinctive gospel. Certain Bible scholars believe, as we have four gospels, there were also different accounts of the life of Moses and the Exodus that were merged together by a man called "the Redactor" who is believed to have been Ezra.
J: "Jehovah" source
E: "Eloheim source
P: Priestly source
D: Deuteronomic source
H: Holiness Code
K: Kenite source
When Did the Exodus Occur?
When searching for a date for the Exodus we need to first try to fit the time period to the historical context as described by the Bible. The Israelites were in Goshen in the Nile Delta. Therefore, the capital of Egypt as the time of the Exodus was most likely in the north, in "Lower Egypt" and not in the south at Thebes in southern Egypt, called "Upper Egypt." (The capital city of Egypt alternated between Thebes in the south and Memphis in the north.) The story reads as though Pharaoh resides nearby Goshen and not hundreds of miles away in Thebes. During certain periods in Egyptian history, Egypt held onto Canaan as a possession. This is important for two reasons. First, if the Exodus took place during the time Egypt held Canaan, then the Israelites were escaping slavery in Egypt and fleeing to Egyptian controlled territory in Canaan. It should also be remembered that there is no historical memory of the Jews preserved in the Bible or in extra-biblical Jewish texts that describe the Jews living under Egyptian occupation in Canaan during the conquest of Joshua or the period of the Judges. Joshua isn't described as fighting Egyptians during his conquest of the Holy Land. In the book of Judges many enemies are described such as Moabites, Midianites, and Philistines, but the Jews are not described as being oppressed by Egyptian occupiers. Egyptians are not described as occupying the Holy Land at all. Therefore, the most likely explanation is that the events of the Exodus, Joshua and Judges took place as or immediately after the Egyptians relinquished their holdings in Canaan.
A name of a Pharaoh is mentioned in the Exodus account, that of Ramesses. The Book of Exodus states that the Israelites built the city of Pi-Ramesses. The city of Pi-Ramesses was built under Ramesses the Second (called "Ramesses the Great") and was abandoned by his son Merneptah. The city of Pi-Ramesses has been discovered and excavated by archeologists.
The text seems to indicate that Moses returned to Egypt soon after one Pharaoh died and another Pharaoh ascended the throne. In fact the text clearly says, "And Yahweh said to Moses in Midian, "Go and return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life." (Exodus 4:19). When that man, or those men, died, it was time for Moses to return to Egypt.
An important archeological artifact regarding the dating of the Exodus is the Victory Stele of King Merneptah. It is dated to the summer of 1207. Currently, it is the only Egyptian inscription that mentions Israel. It describes Israel as being in the land of Canaan and having been defeated by Pharaoh there. Merenptah boasts, "Israel is devastated, His seed is no more." Most scholars now use this as a cut-off date. They believe the Exodus and the conquest of the Holy Land must have taken place before 1207.
So, if Israel was established in Canaan by 1207 does this mean that the Exodus had to occur prior to this date? Some liberals say no. Some scholars believe that only the tribe of Levi participated in the Exodus. Noth believed in a "confederation" theory. In this theory, the Levites and other tribes of diverse origins, merged to become Israel. This theory holds that the Israelites were Canaanites. According to First Chronicles, while many Israelite tribes stayed in Goshen in Egypt, Ephraim, the Son of Joseph, went to live in the land of Canaan. The Scripture says that Ephraim's sons were slain while attempting to rustle cattle from the men of Gath. After their death he mourned many days and his brothers came and comforted him. After this mourning his wife conceived and bore him another son. So we see Israelites settled and living in Canaan while other Israelites are living in Goshen in Egypt many years before the Exodus and even before the oppression and enslavement of the Israelites in Goshen (1 Chronicles 7:22-23).
John J. Davis explains the standard "early" date for the Exodus in his book Moses and the Gods of Egypt, "The early date of the exodus (1445 B.C.) is primarily established upon two biblical texts and the resulting relationship of the chronology to Egyptian history. According to 1 Kings 6:1, the exodus from Egypt took place 480 years prior to the fourth year of Solomon. Since the fourth year of Solomon is usually calculated at 966/5 B.C., this would point to an exodus date of approximately 1446/5 B.C." The other Scripture to which Davis refers is Judges 11:26 in which Jephthah gives a period of three hundred years between Israel's sojourn at Heshbon and his judgeship. Some Bible scholars view the 480 years as a symbolic number that represents twelve generations. A generation was rounded off as forty years, even if it was a shorter period. If the earlier dates of the Exodus are correct this would mean that the Israelites lived for centuries under Egyptian occupation in Canaan. There is no record in the Bible or a period during the time of Joshua or Judges when the Israelites lived in Canaan under Egyptian rule. Since the Israelites had no historical memory of living under Egyptian occupation in Canaan, the Exodus and Conquest of the Promised Land must have occurred when Egypt was loosening its control over Canaan or after it had abandoned the territory. It is also noteworthy that the ancient Septuagint Version of Exodus provides an alternate reading and states that the Israelites…
The Exodus must have occurred some time between the 17th-13th centuries Before Christ. (That is from 1500 to 1200 B.C.) Dates that are significantly before 1500 and significantly after 1200 are unlikely dates for the Exodus.
Symbolic Numbers in the Exodus Narrative
The Bible divides the life of Moses into three equal periods of forty years. Moses spends forty years in Egypt, forty years in the desert with Jethro his father-in-law and Zipporah his wife, and forty years in the desert with the Israelites after leading them out of slavery in Egypt. Some interpreters feel that "forty years" is a figure of speech that refers to a period of times and is not exactly forty full years. An example of its use as a figure of speech is seen in the story of Elijah's pilgrimage to Mount Horeb. Elijah lay and slept under a juniper tree. An angel touched him and spoke to him and said, "Rise and eat; because the journey is too great for you." And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went on the strength of that food forty days and forty nights unto Horeb, the mountain of God." (1 Kings 19:7-8). If we read this literally, we could take it to mean that Elijah walked without stopping all day and all night for forty days. Also, Mount Horeb is not a forty day journey from Canaan. (This is perhaps an indication that by the time this story was written down the location of Mount Horeb was forgotten. It is also interesting that Elijah chose to inquire of Yahweh at Horeb and not at the Temple of Jerusalem.) There are also indications in the text that "forty years" represents eras or epochs, within the life of Moses and not a full four decades. The first indication is that when he leaves to return to Moses, his son Gershem, is still a small child. When Moses arrived in the land of Midean, he met Zipporah and her father Jethro. Soon afterwards he took Zipporah to wife. A straightforward reading of the text implies that soon afterward she bore him his son. (Or rather "sons." Gershem was born and then Eliazar.) According to the text he took his sons with him when he went back to Egypt and they both rode upon a donkey (Exodus 4:20). In route to Egypt, Zipporah circumcised Gershem (Exodus 4:25). If a literal forty years were meant, then Zipporah would have been about sixty years old. There are many stories of barren women and older women having children in the Bible but there are no such stories concerning Zipporah. During the Exodus, it seems that Gershem is a small child, perhaps less than ten years old. It is possible that Moses spent five or seven years in Midian before returning to Egypt to confront the new Pharaoh.
Moses asks Hobab, his brother-in-law, the accompany Israel and serve them as a guide in the desert. Surely, if Moses spent forty full years in the desert, he would have known the wilderness as well as Hobab and wouldn't require his assistance.
Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus?
How to identify the Pharaoh of the Exodus:
- The Bible is clear that the Israelites dwelt at Goshen in the Nile Delta. We should look for a period in which the capital of Egypt was at the North and not hundreds of miles in the south at Thebes. The reigns of Ramesses II and Merenptah fit this description. Also, the Bible says that the Israelites built Pi-Ramesses. Pi-Ramesses was built by Ramesses II. (Other scholars try to argue that the city of Avaris is actually Pi-Ramesses. This is an attempt to date the Exodus to an earlier period that that of Ramesses II.)
- Egypt controlled Canaan. The Bible doesn't describe Israel as living under Egyptian occupation in Canaan. So, we should look for the Exodus and the Conquest of the Holy Land in a time period after the Egyptians had relinquished control of Canaan. Why would the Israelites flee from Egyptian controlled Goshen and go to Egyptian controlled Canaan? If the Israelites lived under Egyptian occupation, there isn't any historical memory of such an occupation preserved in the Bible. (Perhaps part of the reason Moses led the people to the trans-Jordan was because that region was not under Egyptian control.)
- The arrival of the Philistines is a historical time indicator. In the Bible, during the Conquest of the Holy Land, the Israelites fight various Canaanite tribes, but they do not fight Philistines. When Caleb spies out the Holy Land he mentions Canaanites, but not Philistines in the region he spied. The Israelites must have came and settled in the Holy Land about the same time the Philistines did. The Philistines are mentioned in Egyptian records and Ramesses III did battle with them.
- Some would add, erroneously, a number four: Which Pharaoh died in the Red Sea? Did Pharaoh drown at the Red Sea crossing? Does the Bible say he did? The reason that this is important is that, if so, people will use this as a criterion for identifying the Pharaoh of the Exodus. The text in question is Psalm 136:13-15 which reads, "To him which divided the Red Sea into parts: for his mercy endureth forever: and made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth forever: but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea." This passage could be interpreted as saying he did. The word that could be translated drowned here could also be translated as overthrew or "shook off" (as it is translated in Nehemiah 5:13). The Bible does not specifically say that the Pharaoh of the Exodus drown in the Red Sea although some people do interpret it that way. Thus, death by drowning is not a necessary criterion for indentifying the Pharaoh of the Exodus.
- The Bible seems to give an exact number of years from the time of the Exodus until the building of King Solomon's Temple. However, this is problematic. In Archeology of the Bible: Book by Book, the problems of the chronology is dealt with, "According to traditions stemming from a priestly source, the writer figured that there were twelve generations of priests from Aaron to Azariah of the House of Zadok, the first priest to officiate at the Temple, and that each generation was 40 years long. Thus he arrived at 480 years from the Exodus to the founding of the Temple." (The Septuagent says it was 440 years.) Friedman coninutes saying, "The artificial nature of this calculation militates against its use in reconstructing history. But, if we take 25-27 years for an average generate and coutn twelve generations (although this may also be an artificial figure) we arrive approximately at the beginning of the thirteenth century."
There is a great deal of controversy of who the Pharaoh of the Exodus was. Since the Bible doesn't name the Pharaoh of the Exodus many contenders have emerged. In this paper I am going to list the proposed Pharaoh's of the Exodus and list the arguments for and against each one. (There is not universal consensus among Egyptologists concerning the dates of most of the rulers of Egypt.) Most scholars believe that Ramesses the Great (Ramesses II) is the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Certain conservative scholars lean towards Amenhotep II.
Amenemhet IV (1815-1806)
Hyksos Period Oppression and Exodus Theory
Tutimaios (circa 1690) also known and Dudimose. Dudimose was the last king of Egypt's 13th Dynasty during the Middle Kingdom. This was followed by the Hyksos period. The story of Dudimose and his fall is told by the ancient Egyptian chronicler Manetho, who calls him Tutimaios. Precise dates of his reign are unknown but his reign probably ended around 1690 BC. Immanuel Velikovsky (1895-1070) and David Rohl identify him as the Pharaoh of the Exodus but this is rejected by most historians. (Velikovsky wrote "Worlds in Collision" in 1950 and Oedipus and Ankehaten in 1960. Velikovsky tried to used "comparative mythology" to reconstruct ancient history.) Currently, Egyptologists do not believe that Tutimaios was an actual historical Pharaoh but rather a mythological figure created by the ancient Egyptian historian Manetho. I believe that the "smoke and fire" appearance of Mount Sinai was understood as a supernatural appearance (a theophany) and was not volcanic in nature. While God may have used certain natural phenomenon as plagues on Egypt and to provide for the Israelites in the wilderness, I do not believe that we should look for a natural explanation for the apparitions at Mount Sinai. Velikovsky's theories are sensationalistic and controversial. (Supposedly, Thrasyllus of Mendes, an ancient astrologer, dated the Exodus to 1690 B.C. He died 36 A.D.) David Rohl has Amenemhet III as Joseph's Pharaoh. Rohl has developed his own ancient Egyptian Chronology that he calls the "New Chronology." (He identifies the Bible's Shishak as Ramesses II and has Ramesses the Great as a contemporary of King Solomon. In Rohl's scenario Neferhotep I is the adoptive grandfather of Moses. He has Moses flee from Khanefere Sobekhotep IV. And dates the Exodus to 1447 under the reign of Pharaoh Tutimaios. Rohl states that Sobekhotep III enslaved the Israelites in 1568. Moses flees Egypt around 1530-1508. Rohl has the Pharaoh of the Exodus followed by Sheshi. Rohl has the Hyksos ruling Egypt from 1298-1183. Rohl dates the rule of Akhenaten ato 1022-1007 (the standard chronology is 1352-1336), Ramesses II to 943-877, and Merenptah from 888-875. Rohl dates the Hyksos period to the time after the Exodus and cites Psalm 78:49-50 as support. The Hebrew states that God sent destroying angels against the Egyptians. Rohl translated destroying angels "malakhei-roim" as "Shepherd Kings." (But Egyptologists no longer believe "Shepherd Kings" is an accurate translation of "Hyksos." Both Velikovsky's and Rohl's ideas are considered sensationalistic and outside of the mainstream.
Hyksos King (1648-1540) It is possible that the Pharaoh was promoted Joseph and gave sanctuary to his people was a Hyksos king. The Hyksos were "Asiastics" or a Semitic people who took over Egypt and ruled over the Egyptian people. It seems unlikely to me that Semites would enslave their brother Semites. John J. Davis in Moses and the Gods of Egypt argues, "that the oppression of Israel began during the period of the Hyksos and continued into the reign of Thutmose III, who was perhaps Israel's most severe taskmaster." Davis identifies Amenhotep II as the Pharaoh of the Exodus.
Kamose (1573-1570) is depicted at the Pharaoh of the Exodus in Peter Danielson's novel entitled The Exodus.
Ahmose I (1550-1525) The expulsion of the "Shepherd Kings" from Egypt is, for now the only historically document large scale migration of Semitic peoples from Egypt. Josephus dated the Exodus to the time of the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt. Simcha Jacobovici and Ian Wilson also date the Exodus to this period. However, the Hyksos were ruler and not slaves. Therefore, the expulsion of the Hyksos rulers does not match the biblical description of the oppression and exodus of the Israelites.
The Amenhotep II Theory
Thutmose I is believed to be the Pharaoh during whose reign Pharaoh was born. Some argue that Queen Hatshepsut is the daughter of Pharaoh who saved baby Moses from the Nile. After Thutmose I died, there was no male heir and do Queen Hatshepsut seized the throne.
Thutmose III (1479-1425) Queen Hatshepsut ruled until this young king came of age. When he did she continued to rule and they had a co-regency. (After she died Thutmose III had her name on monuments and her images defaced.) Certain Bible students believe this Pharaoh is the "Pharaoh of the Oppression" from whom Moses fled to Midian after murdering the Egyptian taskmaster.
Amenhotep II (1427-1401) According to this theory Thuthmose III was the Pharaoh of the oppression. Hatshepsut was the daughter of Thutmose I and probably the "daughter of Pharaoh" who reared Moses. After Hatshepset died Moses was expelled by Tuthmose II probably around 1485 B.C. Tuthmoses III's son, Amenhotep II ruled from 1485-1419 and was the Pharaoh of the Exodus (1450-1424 BC?). (Davis suggests that the "Dream Stela" of Thutmose IV, the son and successor of Amenhotep II, provides support for the argument of Amenhotep being the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Thutmoses IV was not the first born son. To legitimize his claim to the throne, Thutmose claimed that as he slept by the Sphinx it spoke to him in a dream as the god Har-em-akht. The Sphinx promised him is the unburied him then he would come to rule over Egypt.
The Akhenaten Theory
Amenhotep III (1353-1336) also known as Ankhnaten. Sigmund Freud believed that Akhnaten was Moses. Ankenaten is important for two reasons. First, he was monotheistic (or "Henotheistic") and secondly, in his royal archives several letters from Canaan are found that describe the land being invaded by a people called the Hapiru. This has led some people to believe that the "Amarna Letters" describe the Conquest of the Promised Land by Joshua.
In 1937 Freud wrote "Moses and Monotheism." In it he argued that Moses was an Egyptian nobleman who adhered to the monotheism of Ankhenaten, or was perhaps Ankenaten himself. He believed that Moses was murdered in the wilderness by the Israelites and was replaced by another man, who took the name Moses. The second Moses was a Midianite. The Midianite Moses combined the religion of Akenaten with the monotheistic religion of a tribe that worshiped Yahweh, a volcanic god. According to Freud, the Israelites inherited a collective guilt over the murder of Moses. This "collective guilt" led to the idea of the coming of the Messiah.
In the 1960s and 1970s, several scholars such as George Mendenhall associated the Israelites arrival into Canaan more closely with the Hapiru mentioned in the Amarna letters which date to the reign of Ankhnaten. Most scholars today, however, view the Hapiru instead as bandits who attacked the trade and royal caravans that traveled along the coastal roads of Canaan. (An interesting question is whether Akhenaten's monotheism influenced Moses or vice-versa, depending on how you date the Exodus.)
Horemhub (1319-1292) In the Akhenaten theory Horemhub is the Pharaoh of the Exodus.
Nineteenth Dynasty Theory: Ramesses the Great or Merneptah
Ramesses I (1292-1290)
Ramesses II (1279-1213) Most historians (that accept that the Exodus was a historical event) identify Ramesses the Great (Ramesses II) as the Pharaoh of the Exodus.
Merenptah (1213-1203) Merenptah is depicted as the Pharaoh of the Exodus in Ben Kingsley's Moses and Burt Lancaster's Moses the Lawgiver.
The "Moses is Amenmesse" Theory
Amenmesse (1203-1199) Rolf Krauss in The Moses Mystery offered an interesting, compelling and provocative theory that Amenmesse was Moses! In this scenario Amenmesse is Moses, Seti II is the Pharaoh of the Oppression, and Setnakhte was the Pharaoh of the Exodus.
Setnakte (1190-1186) In the "Moses in Amenmesse" theory, Setnakte is the Pharaoh of the Exodus.
How many Israelites left Egypt?
Some people believe that over two million Israelite slaves departed from Egypt with Moses. Others dispute these numbers. I got caught up in an Exodus of millions of people out of the city of Houston when Bill White, the mayor of Houston, caused a panic over Hurricane Rita. It was a humanitarian disaster. There was gridlock on the highways for over sixty miles. Cars caught fire and burned. People were out in the middle of the meridian of the highway defecating in front of everyone. People were dying. All grocery stores and convenience stores were completely empty of all products and had no fuel. After the masses left, cities were abandoned ghost towns and it looked like a war zone.
The Tabernacle is much too small to meet the religious needs of over two million people.
In recent times we have seen large scale migrations and displacements of peoples. This includes the population displacements between India and Pakistan, an expulsion of Kurds after the first Gulf War, the flight of Albanians from Kosovo before the Kosovo war and displacement of African tribes during the massacres in Rwanda. Centuries from now, would an archeologist be able to excavate and find evidence that these large scale migrations have occurred. So we see that an absence of evidence is not an evidence of absence. Skeptics counter that much smaller groups than the proposed two million that left Egypt at the Exodus have left archeological evidence in the Sinai. I witnessed a migration of over two million when the incompetent mayor of Houston sparked a panic when hurricane Rita was in the Gulf of Mexico. It was a humanitarian disaster. There was sixty miles of gridlock. Everything behind this mass was consumed. After the city was emptied it looked as though it had been a war zone. People were defecating in the medians. Vehicles were bursting in flames and burning their occupants alive. Several people died. It took over eight hours for a vehicle to drive thirty miles. Since I have seen for myself what an Exodus of over two million people looks like, I have doubts that the numbers of the Israelites in the Exodus was that large. I have also been in a full scale reproduction of the Tabernacle. It is too small to accommodate the religious needs of two million people. Such a mass of people would need over twenty tabernacles to be able to participate in worship. Also, why would Pharaoh have brought 200 chariots against 2 million people? It seems like an exercise in futility. So, what do we do with the census that seems to indicate that there were about two million Israelites that participated in the Exodus? Some will view the census as a deliberate "pious fraud" on the part of the scribes who wrote the Bible. Others have proposed that it is perhaps the census that David had conducted and it was mislabeled and misplaced into the story of the Exodus. Another possibility that has been proposed is that we have been mistranslating the numbers and over-counting the Israelites. The Exodus was more likely tens of thousands rather than millions.
The Nomadic Ideal
Through Hosea the Prophet, Yahweh spoke saying, "I have been Yahweh your God since the land of Egypt. I shall make you dwell in tents again" (Hosea 12:9). Hosea had spoken this word from the Lord to Israel, "Therefore, behold, I will allure her, I will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her…She shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt…in that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, and with all the living things of the earth. Bow and the sword I will shatter from the earth, to make them lie down safely. I will betroth you to Me forever, yes, I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the LORD" (Hosea 2:14-20). The word of Yahweh came to Jeremiah speaking to Israel and saying, "I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your betrothal, when you went after me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holiness to the Lord (Jeremiah 2:2-3)." Hosea, like Amos before him, describes Israel's journey through the wilderness as a time of spiritual idyll. Israel was then innocent and childlike, knowing nothing of the pagan gods and loyal to Yahweh whose presence was seen during the time of Moses in the pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). In Hosea 2:16, Yahweh says to his bride, "I am going to lure her and lead her out into the wilderness and speak to her heart…I will betroth you to myself forever, betroth you with integrity and justice with tenderness and love. I will betroth you to myself with faithfulness and you will come to know Yahweh." Jeremiah speaks of the wilderness saying, "I remember the devotion of your youth, how you loved me as a bride, following me in the desert, in a land unsown" (Jeremiahs 2:2-3).
The Exodus most likely occurred during the reign of Ramesses. I believe that the story of the Exodus is historically true. However, this is not just an intellectual exercise. The book of Ephesians describes the Law of Moses as a shadow of the things to come, the fullness of God revealed in Jesus Christ. John states in his Gospel, the Law came through Moses, but Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ.
List of Significant Archeological Discoveries that shed light on the Exodus
The Soleb Inscription from the Temple of Amenhotep III (1390-1353). Describes the "Shasu land of Yahweh."
The Merenptah Stele
The Timna Tabernacle
Ipuwer Papyrus (Papyrus Leiden I 344 recto) entitled "Admonitions of Ipuwer" or "The Dialouge of Ipuwer and the Lord of All." Dated to the late 13th Century BC but a copy of an earlier Middle Kingdom document. Its date is disputed. It describes a world in chaos and natural disasters and says "the river has become blood."
Papyrus Anastasi Vi, 55-56 refers to the Shasu (Bedouin) of Edom who were permitted to water their herds in the waters of Pithom.
The Shiprah document
The Epic of Sinuhe This is the story of an Egyptian nobleman who overhears a conspiracy and in fear flees to the desert where he takes up with a Bedouin sheik.
The Hymn to Aten. Found in our Bibles at Psalm 104.
Relief of Royal Tent of Ramesses II from Abu Simbel Temple. It shows a reception tent. The layout is very similar to the Tabernacle.
Megiddo Ivory. This relic shows a Canaanite dignitary seated upon a Cherubim throne. The design is probably similar to the Ark of the Covenant
James K. Hoffmeir Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition
James K. Hoffmeier Ancient Israel in Sinai: Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition
Richard H. Wilkinson The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt (Thames and Hudson, London, 2003)
Geraldine Pinch Magic in Ancient Egypt (University of Texas Press, Austin 2006)
Darrell D. Baker The Encyclopedia of the Egyptian Pharaoh's Volume I: Pre-Dynastic Through Twentieth Dynasty (3300-1069 BC) (Bannerstone Press, Oakville, CT 2008)
Jonathan Kirsch Moses: A Life (Ballentine Books, Wiona Lake IN.)
Richard Elliot Friedman The Bible with Sources Revealed (Harper Collins, San Francisco, 2003), The Hidden Book in the Bible: The Mystery of the First Prose Masterpiece (Harper San Francisco, 1999)
Moses at the Movies
"The Ten Commandments" (2 Versions) by Cecil B. DeMille. This is the classic version."Charlton Heston set a bad precedent by asking that he be the "Voice of God." DeMille wisely altered the voice so you can't really tell it is Heston. Most movies follow this example. This however is the problem. Rather than a revelation, it makes it seem like something Moses is making up. He is talking to himself. In this version Rameses II is the Pharaoh of the Exodus.
"Moses" with Burt Lancaster. In this version Ramesses II is the Pharaoh of the Oppression and Merenptah is the Pharaoh of the Exodus.
"Moses" with Ben Kingsley. In this version Ramesses II is the Pharaoh of the Oppression and Merenptah is the Pharaoh of the Exodus.
"The Prince of Egypt" animated with Val Kilmer as the voice of Moses. In this version we start to see the Egyptians as the victims.
"Testament: The Bible in Animation: Moses" In this version Ramesses II is the Pharaoh of the Oppression and Merenptah is the Pharaoh of the Exodus.
"The Ten Commandments" with Omar Sharif. This movie presents Moses as demonic. He is an anti-Christ figure and really the villain of the program. (In fact, this movie reminded me of the film "The Omen.") After seeing all the horrible things Moses does-at the end of the movie you do wish that the Egyptians had killed him as an infant!
Modern Myths about Ancient Egypt
Our knowledge of Egypt has tremendously increased since Hieroglyphics were discovered and important archeological discoveries were made and it continues to increase as additional discoveries are continuously made. Despite this fact, the public has many incorrect ideas about ancient Egypt. There are several reasons for this. Some misinformation comes from sensational claims made by books marketing bizarre ideas and also by practitioners of the New Age movement and "Neo-pagans." Most of the disinformation comes from Hollywood. Unfortunately, people really do form their view of ancient Egypt from watching movies. I think this issue needs to be taken very seriously because we should be on a quest for truth and reality. Fantasies from Hollywood set us backwards on this quest. These movies are harmful. They create and reinforce misrepresentations about Ancient Egypt. The worst culprits are the "Stargate" movie and the movies "The Mummy" and "The Mummy Returns." I initially enjoyed Stargate as a good science fiction movie. But upon reflecting upon the movie it is obvious that it is a hateful attack on organized religion. Some of the very notions of this movie are incorrect. The director seems to be implying that religions try to restrict reading and education. In reality, Ancient Egyptian religions (as well as Judaism, Christianity and Islam) are religious that are based on sacred writings. (In the movie to control the people, writing is forbidden. In reality, in ancient Egypt writing was a form of control over the masses. The ability to read and write gave the scribes enormous power.) Stargate is an attack on religion in a similar way with the "Golden Compass" and the re-make of "Clash of the Titans." One of the most dangerous ideas purveyed by Stargate is that aliens from outer space built the Great Pyramids of Egypt. Egypt was not the first civilization. Civilizations emerged in ancient Iraq hundreds of years earlier than Egypt. (The idea that ancient Egypt was the earliest human civilization is also a false perception about ancient Egypt among the general public.) Ancient Egyptian civilization emerged around the year 3100 B.C.
The problem with the "Mummy" movies is that it incorrectly represents ancient Egyptian religion. Take for instance the Scarab. In ancient Egyptian Religion the Scarab, or dung bettle, was a symbol of resurrection and continual life. In the Mummy movies the Scarabs are flesh eating monstrosities. So, in the film, the Scarab is a horrific image of a gastly death-while to the ancient Egyptians it was a symbol for the hope of a new life. In the "Mummy Returns" Anubis is depicted as a good of evil and of death. To the Egyptians Anubis was not viewed as an evil god. He presided over the mummification process and stood in judgment with the god Osiris as they judged the souls of the departed. In the "Mummy Returns" Anubis appears with the character of the Egyptian god "Seth," as a god of death, evil and destruction. This does not accurately reflect what the ancient Egyptians believed about their gods. Both Stargate and "The Mummy" movies distort what the ancient Egyptians actually believed. Also, the Egyptians were not black. Just because Egypt is in the continent of Africa, it doesn't mean that the Egyptians were black. Todays Egyptians, especially Coptic Christians, are the direct descendents of the ancient Egyptians. They may have dark complections but they are not black. (I have seen very light skinned Egyptians. Egyptians with red hair and blond hair who were full blooded Egyptians. That may be rare in Egypt-but these people are full blooded Egyptians.)
Another inaccuracy in how Egypt is presented in movies, in Stargate, The Mummy and even movies such as Charlton Heston's "The Ten Commandments." Usually, Egyptian Temples are portrayed as plain stone buildings. Actually, the Temples were painted with vibrant and dazzling colors.