Richard Lepsius.

Letters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai online

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the author concludes this section as follows :]

If, however, our entire view of the Old Testament chro-
nology, regarding it as founded upon accurately preserved
dates, only so far back as the separation of the kingdom, but
nevertheless attached from that epoch up to the time of
Abraham to an evidently authentic tliread of historically
reliable genealogies, offering, however, before the Egyp-
tian period, only cyclical instead of historical numbers and
genealogies, and mainly confined to Babylonian sources and
traditions — if, I say, this general view of the character of
the chronological data which leaves untouched the signifi-
cance of their contents, should, on theological grounds,
arouse scruples in the mind of any one, I would refer him
to the introduction which Bunsen has prefixed to the third
section of his first book on Egypt, as full of talent as of
meaning, and from which I would more especially extract the
following passages^.

" Whoever adopts as a principle that chronology is a mat-
ter of revelation, is precluded from giving eflect to any
doubt that may cross his path, as involving a virtual aban-
donment of his faith m revelation. He must be prepared,
not only to deny the existence of contradictory statements,
but to fill up chasms ; however irreconcileable the former
* P. 204, 206. (Trans, by C. H. CottreU, vol. i. p. 161-163.)

MANETnoyic cnBO'OLOGT. 493

may appear by any aid of philology and history, however un-
fathomable the latter. He who, on the other hand, neither
believes in an historical tradition as to the eternal eiistonce
of man, nor admits an lii:*torical and chronological element
in revelation, will either contemptuously dismiss the in-
quiry, or, by prematurely rejecting its more difficult elements,
fail to discover those threads of the research which lie be-
neath the unsightly and time-worn surface, and which vet
may prove the thread of Ariadne.

" The assumption that it entered into the sclieme of Dinne
Providence either to preserve for us a chronology of the
Jews and their forefathers by real tradition, or to pronde
the later commentators with magic powers, in n'spect to the
most exoteric element of history, may seem indispensable to
some, and absurd to others. Historical inquiry has nothing
whatever to do with such idle, preposterous, and often falla-
cious assumptions. Its business is to see whether anjihing
— and if so, what — has been transmitted to us. If it fuliU
this duty in a spirit of reverence as well as of liberty, sooner
or later it will obtain the prize, which, if the history of the
last 2(X)0 years prove anj-thing at all. Providence has refused
to both the other systems.'*

[After the two first sections of The Criticism vpon the
Authorities, of which the first, upon Herodotus and Dio-
donis, has been omitted in tliis translation, while the second,
upon the Hebrew tradition, has been strongly dwelt upon,
the author proceeds to the third and last section, which treats
of the historical works of ]\ranetho and the authorities which
refer to him. Now, although this section contains the really
critical restoration of the Manethonic chronology, considered
by the author as the only one to be relied on in its general
features, it has not been considered compatible with the ob-
ject of the present work to communicate at fiill length this
difficult research, which was only vrritten for the profound
investigator. We think it sufficient to give the two pas-
sages in which the whole extent of the Manethonic history,
down to the second Persian conquest, according to a state-


ment obtained from Manetho himself, is said to amount to
3555 years, and the connection is pointed out between this
time, considered as strictly historical, and the cyclically dis-
covered History of the Gods.]

The number 3555 is, however, alone essential and im-
portant, and, in spite of all the uncertainties and revisings
of the text, there cannot be the slightest doubt about it. It
led undoubtedly to the termination of the reign of Necta-
nebus II. If we can, therefore, determine this end in other
more certain ways, we need no longer trouble ourselves
about the calculation of Syncellus ; since this, as every one
allows, is, at all events, incorrect. But it cannot be doubted
that Manetho knew, and correctly stated, the true year of
the conquest of Egypt by Ochus, which very likely happened
during his lifetime.

The calculation of this concluding year has, however, been
so fully and comincingly proved by Bockh (p. 125 — 133), that
I consider it would be superfluous to return to it again. I
assume with hun that the year 3-iO B.C. is perfectly ascer-
tained to be the concluding year of the Egyptian dominion.
Calculating back from this stated terminating point 3555
Egyptian or 3553 Julian years, we come to the year 3893
lefore Christ, as thejlrst of Menes. We consider this to be
established as perfectly historical, in as far as the Mane-
thonic relation founded upon the annals of the kingdom may
generally be regarded as historically correct.

But long before the cyclical system of the government of
the gods could be founded upon the Sothis periods, which
were established in the course of history, Menes had already
been admitted into the Egyptian annals, and was maintained
to be the fixed chronological commencement of Egyptian
history, especially of the history of Lower Egypt. His
epoch could be no more altered. "What happened before
his time was ante-historical, and might be adjusted to the
cyclical necessities of mythologj'. The only historical fact
was, that other kings had reigned before Menes, and indeed in
This. In order to distinguish them from the kter kings as


being ante-historical, a designation was selected, which we
are not yet acquainted with in hieroglyphics, but which was
translated in Greek by N»

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Online LibraryRichard LepsiusLetters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai → online text (page 43 of 54)