« PreviousContinue »
the Mosaic records, and can not, therefore, be regarded as independent testimony in support of those records. Their testimony, nevertheless, is valuable, as showing how the Jewish chronology had found its way into heathen writings many years before the Christian era.*
* Demetrius and Eupolemus are both mentioned by Josephus (Cont. Apion, i. 23) as foreign writers who had “not greatly missed the truth about our affairs; whose lesser mistakes ought, therefore, to be forgiven them, for it was not in their power to understand our writings with the utmost accuracy.”
THE ARGUMENT FROM HISTORY.
I. EGYPT. Source of our Knowledge of Egyptian Antiquities. — I. The
Temples and Monuments. — Afford little Help in this Inquiry. - No monumental Date earlier than B. C. 2500. — II. Literary Remains. — Art of Writing early known. — Number of Egyptian Books. — These contain no Chronology. – III. Greek Historians. — Their Study of Egyptian Antiquities. — Divided into two Classes. — Testimonies relating to PREHISTORIC TIMES. – Diogenes Laertius. - Diodorus Siculus. - Herodotus. — Pomponius Mela. — The “Old Chronicle.” - Eusebius. – Julius Africanus. — Castor. - These Accounts not to be taken literally. – Discrepancies between them. Months reckoned as Years. — Were ancient Annals forged ? - Supposed astronomical Evidence. - Story of the Zodiac of Dendera. – Of the wooden Tablets. - HISTORIC TIMES. – Egyptian Chronology without Dates. - Manetho, his History and Character. – His Lists of the Egyptian Dynasties. - These Lists examined. - I. Their Sources unknown. - II. Have been corrupted. — III. Intrinsic Evidence of their Untrustworthiness. — IV. Contradicted by the “ Old Chronicle."
- By Eratosthenes. — By Josephus. – V. Not sustained by the Monuments. — Conclusion as to their Value.
. We propose to inquire, in the first place, of HisTORY, whether she has any evidence to afford us of
the alleged remote antiquity of man on earth. And we will begin with what is confessedly one of the oldest of known nations — ancient Egypt.
Our knowledge of the antiquities of Egypt is derived partly from its temples and monuments, partly from the papyrus rolls and other literary remains still extant, and partly from the writings of historians and scholars of other lands, who have transmitted to us the facts and traditions known in their day, but which have otherwise been lost.
The first of these sources of information affords little help in determining the question before us. The work of deciphering the monumental inscriptions, since the discovery of the key to the system of hieroglyphics, as furnished by the Rosetta Stone, has been one of great interest, and some important results have been reached. Still it admits of a question whether, in the hands of those who but imperfectly understand them, they have not introduced much confusion into Egyptian history. However that may be, the data they furnish are too recent to be of much weight in the inquiry under consideration. It is the general admission of Egyptologers, that no. monumental record can be dated back anterior to about B. C. 2500. Says Mr. Poole, * " The earliest record which all Egyptologers are agreed to regard
* Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, Art. Egypt.
as affording a date, is of the fifteenth century before Christ, and no one has alleged any such record to be of any earlier time than the twenty-fourth century before Christ."
The same thing is substantially true of the literary remains of ancient Egypt. It is generally admitted that the art of writing was known at a very early period, perhaps as early as the commencement of the empire under Menes, its first king. Clemens Alexandrinus mentions sacred Egyptian books to the number of forty-two; others, eleven hundred; others still, twenty thousand, and thirty-six thousand five hundred. * Some of these may still be extant in the numerous papyrus rolls now deposited in the museums of Egypt. It is, however, generally agreed that these books contain no history or chronology; and certain it is that, if they do, neither has, as yet, been brought to light. Bunsen (vol. ii. p. 16) expressly says, "We possess no Egyptian historical work."
For the history and chronology of ancient Egypt, then, we have to depend almost solely upon writers of other nations, mostly of the Greeks.
Diodorus Siculus (I. ii. 36) gives a list of the names of "illustrious Greeks,” as he terms them, who had traveled in Egypt. He says that the priests of that country read in their annals the names of these men whom they have seen among them, beginning with the semi-fabulous name of Orpheus. He then mentions Homer, Lycurgus, and others, down to his own time, giving more than half a score in all. Plutarch furnishes a similar list. Thus it appears that the principal of the Greek historians, philosophers, and poets visited Egypt for the express purpose of studying its customs, institutions, and whatever else was worthy to be known. And we find, in corroboration of these statements, very many things in Grecian mythology and science credited to that people. More than a dozen Grecian and Roman writers speak of Egypt in their works. Some, as Herodotus and Diodorus, go into details respecting the history of the country and its laws; others, as Plutarch, dwell more on matters pertaining to religion and the gods; others, still, speak of its language, pyramids, and other monuments. Now, when we consider the eminently practical character of the Greek mind, what those writers said of Egypt is of great importance in our discussion, although we may often be sorely vexed at the meagerness of the information they furnish on particular points, when they evidently had the means and the opportunity of giving us the very knowledge we seek.
* Bunsen, vol. i. p. 7.